- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 18, 2007

VIERA, Fla. — Few adults, and certainly no professional athletes, would be proud of walking for 10 minutes.

But when Nick Johnson managed a 10-minute stroll around the spring training practice fields yesterday, it represented something of a major accomplishment for the injured Washington Nationals first baseman.

Johnson, recovering from a broken right femur, has learned to appreciate each step of his rehabilitation process.

“I haven’t walked like that since I got hurt,” he said. “It felt good to be able to do that. It hurt, but you just keep pushing through it.”

Johnson reported to camp Friday and admitted he doesn’t know when he’ll be able to return to the Nationals lineup. He’s hopeful it could be as soon as June, but neither he nor the team will know for sure until he’s able to start participating in baseball-related activities.

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Before he can do that, he must be able to run without pain. And before he can do that, he must be able to walk.

“That was a pretty good workout right there,” he said. “Just walking for 10 minutes really fired up my hip. Cause that whole right side of my leg is fatigued.”

Chill in the air

With morning temperatures in the low 40s and a steady wind coming in from the northwest, manager Manny Acta decided to push back the start of yesterday’s workout an hour.

The 10:30 a.m. start time seemed to help Washington’s pitchers, who did not have to throw in the early morning cold. The forecast is for slightly warmer temperatures today, so the workout will return to its usual starting time.

Extra bases

The Nationals have discussed a one-year contract with free-agent infielder Ronnie Belliard, team sources said, but the two sides aren’t close to a deal. Belliard, who hit .272 last season with the Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Cardinals, is seeking a contract worth at least $1 million. …

Veteran infielder Tony Womack was among the players who reported early yesterday. All position players must report today, with the first full-squad workout scheduled for Tuesday. …

Also reporting yesterday were all seven Dominican players who had previously been held up by visa problems: catcher Juan Brito, right-handers Jesus Colome, Felix Diaz, Anastacio Martinez and Eduardo Valdez and left-handers Luis Martinez and Arnie Munoz. …

Andy Dunn, the Nationals’ director of player development, has resigned after five seasons with the organization. Dunn, who oversaw the franchise’s farm system along with assistant general manager Bob Boone, had previously served as vice president of ballpark operations and as the Montreal Expos’ vice president of Florida operations.

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