- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The banged-up Washington Nationals may have to persevere a few more games without outfielder Ryan Church and first baseman Nick Johnson.

Both key performers are sore, but for now team physician Bruce Thomas virtually has ruled out placing either on the 15-day disabled list — though that could be a possibility if either suffers a setback.

Church injured his left shoulder slamming into the wall last Wednesday while making a spectacular game-ending catch in Pittsburgh. Church threw on the side for about an hour and a half before yesterday’s game. He is day-to-day.

“My arm felt fine — it’s just my chest,” Church said after throwing for the first time since the injury.

Meanwhile, Johnson said his right heel felt much better than on Monday’s off day. Johnson, expected to be out for three to seven days, was forced to leave Sunday’s game in the seventh inning with a bruised heel after his spikes got caught in the dirt while he was crossing the plate on Vinny Castilla’s two-run double. Instead of sliding, Johnson tried to sidestep Toronto Blue Jays catcher Gregg Zaun and jammed his right leg before his left foot hit the plate.

In retrospect, Johnson said he should have hit the dirt.

“I didn’t think it was that close,” he said. “The guys were telling me to stay up. At the last minute, I saw that [Zaun’s] leg went out and then back in. I just tried to sidestep it.”

Church’s problem, along with his left shoulder that took the full impact of his collision with the left-field wall, is with his right collarbone. Yesterday he talked about possibly seeing a specialist for a second opinion. But after he had lengthy consultations with Thomas and received a pain-killing injection, a consensus was reached that Church does not need to see another physician.

“Basically, it’s all contusion. It’s all impact,” Thomas said. “We see this a lot in football. Running backs land on that shoulder, and the whole mechanism gets sort of compressed. It’s very similar to a football injury. We’re on the right track. What we’re doing is all you can do.”

Church, hitting a team-best .325 with seven home runs, is making a strong case for National League rookie of the year honors.

Johnson entered last night second in the National League in on-base percentage (.444), sixth in walks (47) and seventh in batting average (.320). He is hitting .381 with runners in scoring position.

Day rehab set

Nationals right-hander Zach Day will begin a rehab assignment Saturday at Class AA Harrisburg after successfully throwing a three-inning simulated game yesterday.

Day, who was placed on the 15-day DL on May 31 with a fractured right forearm, threw 45 pitches in front of general manager Jim Bowden and pitching coach Randy St. Claire.

Day is eligible to come off the DL, but the club would like him to make a few rehab starts before deciding on his role. Day believes he can help the Nationals in a pennant chase.

“I felt good,” Day said of pitching a simulated game in intense heat and humidity. “Pitch-wise, I was all right. I wasn’t great, but I made good pitches. I felt like myself again. It’s just a matter of getting my stamina back.”

Day is 1-2 with a 6.75 ERA in 12 appearances (five starts) this season.

“It’s too early to tell because everything has to go perfect,” Bowden said of activating Day. “But he’s the type of guy who could be ready very soon. He keeps his body in great shape.”

Vote delayed

D.C. Councilman Vincent Orange delayed a committee vote on his bill to repeal a recently struck project labor agreement for the Nationals’ planned stadium in Southeast. Orange made the move after Carol Schwartz, fellow council member, was unable to attend, Her vote was needed to help move the legislation out of the government operations committee.

Orange said he is unsure whether the measure can still be advanced before the council begins its summer recess next month. District Mayor Anthony Williams has criticized Orange’s efforts against the PLA, calling it a cynical and politically motivated move.

Extra bases

The Nationals’ rotation will remain in its usual order despite Monday’s off day. Esteban Loaiza will start tomorrow’s series finale against the Pirates though tomorrow would be staff ace Livan Hernandez’s fifth day. Hernandez will pitch in Friday’s series opener against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. …

Reliever T.J. Tucker underwent successful Tommy John surgery yesterday in Birmingham, Ala. Noted orthopedic surgeon James Andrews performed the procedure and also removed a bone spur from Tucker’s elbow. Tucker is expected to be out until the middle of next season.

Staff writer Eric Fisher contributed to this article.

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