- The Washington Times - Friday, January 14, 2005

The Washington Nationals signed first baseman Nick Johnson yesterday to a one-year, $1.45million contract, avoiding an arbitration hearing.

Johnson, 26, batted .251 with seven home runs and 33 RBI last year with the Montreal Expos before a fractured cheekbone ended his season on Aug.20.

Johnson, a left-handed hitter who was acquired from the New York Yankees as part of the Javier Vazquez deal before last season, has a .255 career average with 38 home runs and 146 RBI in 321 games.

“Nick has struggled with injuries his entire career, but he is one of the better defensive players in the league,” Nationals interim general manager Jim Bowden said.

By signing Johnson, the Nationals only have two arbitration-eligible players left — unsigned pitchers Tony Armas Jr. and Tomo Ohka.

“Armas is close to being signed,” Bowden said. “Ohka will probably go to arbitration.”

Johnson, who has dealt with hand, wrist and thumb injuries during his career, enjoyed his best season in 2002 when he hit .243 with 15 home runs, 58 RBI and a .402 slugging percentage for the Yankees.

Johnson, the nephew of former Philadelphia Phillies shortstop and manager Larry Bowa, started last season on the disabled list because of a lumbar strain in his lower back that forced him to miss 46 games.

Before his season-ending injury, Johnson was named NL player of the week for Aug.9-15.

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