- The Washington Times - Monday, July 11, 2005

PHILADELPHIA — Washington Nationals first baseman Nick Johnson suffered a setback in his recovery from a bruised right heel and probably won’t be ready to come off the disabled list following the All-Star break.

Johnson, who was scheduled to begin a rehabilitation assignment yesterday in Altoona, Pa., with the Class AA Harrisburg Senators, did not report because he felt sharp pain while trying to run Friday before the Nationals’ game against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

“I’m backing off and just getting treatment and go day-to-day and see how it feels,” Johnson said.

Johnson, who was placed on the 15-day DL on July3 retroactive to June27, said he probably would not rejoin the team Thursday in Milwaukee — Washington’s first game after the All-Star break.

“It’s disappointing, but I got to get it healthy,” Johnson said. “I can’t do anything but get it right before I get back out there.”

Before he was injured against the Toronto Blue Jays on June26, Johnson was enjoying a career year with a .320 batting average, .444 on-base percentage, eight home runs and 42 RBI.

Nationals manager Frank Robinson has used veterans Wil Cordero and Carlos Baerga at first in his absence.

“Nick won’t be back for the start of the second half,” Robinson said. “I told you guys about that type of injury. Nobody can determine how well it is and how bad it is. It’s in there in the heel, and that’s a tough area to really have a feel for how good it is or how bad it is.”

Where’s the bench?

Catcher Brian Schneider left yesterday’s game in the sixth inning because of dizziness associated with a head cold and is listed as day-to-day. Schneider’s exit further reduced the already depleted bench.

When backup catcher Gary Bennett replaced Schneider, that left outfielder Marlon Byrd and Cordero as the only obvious choices to pinch hit because Tony Blanco (ear infection), Junior Spivey (broken arm) and Cristian Guzman (hamstring) were not at full strength. Blanco entered the game in the 10th inning as a pinch runner for Baerga, and Robinson wound up using every available bench player in the 12-inning, four-hour marathon.

The Nationals had planned to make a roster move for Spivey, who broke his right forearm before Saturday’s game, but were unable to call up a player from Class AAA New Orleans with Hurricane Dennis bearing down on Louisiana. The Zephyrs’ players dispersed with the approaching storm and were scattered around the country, making it nearly impossible to get somebody to Philadelphia within 24 hours.

Robinson would prefer a versatile middle infielder in the mold of Jamey Carroll to replace Spivey, who is out eight to 12 weeks and is scheduled to undergo surgery today at Washington Hospital Center, but no one in the farm system can match Carroll’s ability.

Rick Short, whom the Nationals already have called up twice this season, is the closest they have to a utility infielder.

A team official said the club will put Spivey on the DL within the next 48 hours.

“It’s almost comes down to where there’s almost an injury a game when we play,” Robinson said. “We play a game, somebody comes up hurt. Yeah, we’re still winning because the people we’ve asked to step in have done the job, and the people that are left that can still play are the walking wounded and have done a good job.”

Managerial confrontation

Frank Robinson and Philadelphia Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel exchanged words in the sixth inning yesterday, but it paled in comparison with Robinson’s run-in with Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia on June14.

Yesterday’s confrontation started after the Nationals’ Jose Guillen fouled a ball off his tender left ankle to open the sixth. Guillen, who hit a two-run homer in the fourth, fell to his knees in obvious pain. Robinson and Nationals trainer Tim Abraham spent the next few minutes attending to Guillen. Manuel, who apparently thought Guillen was delaying the game, yelled something from the dugout.

Robinson verbally fired back and waved a white towel for added emphasis. Manuel immediately came out of the dugout, and he was restrained by third-base umpire Wally Bell.

“Charlie started hollering at the umpire, ‘Get him back in the box, get him back in the box,’ and all I said to him was, ‘Hey, the guy is hurt. What do you want?’” Robinson said. “I said it to him twice because he kept hollering at the umpire. I said, ‘Charlie, the guy is hurt. What do you want him to do?’ That’s the foot he’s been bothered with for a big part of this year. It takes time to regain your composure.”

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