The Washington Times - June 21, 2008, 05:58PM

Chris Marrero, the Nationals’ top-rated prospect, will miss the rest of the season after tests concluded he broke his fibula sliding into home plate on Wednesday. GM Jim Bowden revealed the news a little while ago after batting practice at Nationals Park and said Marrero will need surgery both to repair the broken bone and ligaments in his ankle.

This obviously is a major setback for the 19-year-old first baseman, who was the organization’s first-round draft pick in 2006 and last winter was named the Nationals’ top prospect by Baseball America magazine. Marrero had gotten off to a slow start this season at Class A Potomac but had turned things around recently and had hit .352 over his last 14 games before getting hurt. His final season numbers: a .250 average, 11 homers and 38 RBI in 70 games.


“It’s disappointing, because he had really come on strong the last month after a slow start,” Bowden said. “He hit his 10 home runs and was on pace to hit about 25 homers. He’s on the fast track for here. It’s a setback, there’s no question about it. But it’s part of the game. We’ll heal him up and get him back up starting next year.”

Bowden doesn’t believe the injury will be a huge setback to Marrero’s long-term development, but it will slow down his progression up through the system and ultimately to Washington. “When you have a setback like this, it obviously affects your timetable to the big leagues,” Bowden said. “When you miss three months, or five months, depending on how you look at it, it sets you back five months. But long run, he’ll be fine. We’ll get him healthy. And luckily at first base, if you’re going to have a broken leg somewhere, first base is probably the best place for it to happen.”

In other news…

— Nick Johnson is still feeling soreness in his right wrist and will go to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., on Monday to get another doctor’s opinion, “just to make sure there’s nothing else we can do at this point,” Bowden said. “That’s been discouraging that he’s not feeling any better after all this time.”

— Austin Kearns could be ready to begin a rehab assignment Thursday, which could have him back in the lineup in time for the Nats’ series in Cincinnati beginning July 3.

— Ryan Langerhans, who was outrighted to Class AAA Columbus last night to clear roster space for Garrett Mock, has accepted the assignment and will report to the Clippers.

— Speaking of Mock (who starts tonight against the Rangers), once again it won’t matter if he throws a no-hitter. He’ll be sent back to Columbus after the game because Odalis Perez (who makes a rehab start for Potomac tonight) will be ready to return to the mound in five days.

“I think sometimes when you give a guy a ‘Starbucks,’ it helps,” Bowden said. “Give that little cup of coffee, let him have a taste, and then later on when he comes up here, he’s been there already and he’s done it a couple of times. That’s been our thinking. I know it’s kind of unorthodox to bring [Mock and Tyler Clippard] up and option them right back like we’ve done. But from a development perspective, we think it’s been helpful to give them a couple of starts here and develop.”