- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 25, 2007

VIERA, Fla. — As Nook Logan crumpled to the ground, clutching his right leg, a Washington Nationals trainer rushed from the dugout to tend to him, and a flurry of questions arose.

Was Logan seriously hurt? Enough to have to miss Opening Day? If so, who would replace him as the starting center fielder? And then, would the chain reaction open a spot on the Nationals’ roster for someone who appeared destined to be sent to the minor leagues? There were no answers to those questions in the immediate aftermath of Logan’s right groin injury, and there probably won’t be until team doctors have a chance to re-examine him this morning.

In the meantime, the Nationals hope Logan’s early prediction is accurate and the injury is simply a minor strain.

“It was more of a scare,” Logan said. “I just felt a little grab, a little pain right there. But 10, 15 minutes after that when the doc checked me out, there was no swelling, so that’s good right now.”

Manager Manny Acta didn’t want to make any predictions about Logan’s status for the final week of spring training or Washington’s season opener, now just eight days away.

“We’ve still got about a week or so to go,” Acta said. “It could be three days, it could be five, it could be two months. We don’t know.”

Logan injured himself with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning of yesterday’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals. With the score tied 2-2, Logan lined a single to right field, then made a wide turn around first base as though he might try to stretch the hit into a double.

Once right fielder John Rodriguez corralled the ball, Logan slammed on the brakes, but his right leg got caught and he fell to the ground in a heap. Rodriguez threw the ball to first baseman Tagg Bozied, who then tagged the immobile Logan out while assistant trainer Mike McGowan, followed by Acta, emerged from the dugout to check on the injured player.

“The ball wasn’t hit that hard, and I was thinking: ‘One out, try to get to second,’ ” Logan said. “And then the guy closed on the ball pretty quick. I tried to get back to first and I planted to go back. My foot slipped up underneath and I stretched my groin a little bit.”

Logan remained on the ground for several minutes before being helped to his feet and then walking off gingerly but under his own power. About 30 minutes after the Cardinals wrapped up a 4-2, 10-inning victory, Logan emerged from the training room and walked slowly to his locker.

He sounded upbeat, noted the injury wasn’t nearly as bad as a left groin strain he suffered while in college and said he doesn’t believe it will prevent him from playing Opening Day at RFK Stadium.

“I don’t think it’s that serious,” he said. “I wouldn’t think so.”

Before getting hurt, the 27-year-old had been making some strides at the plate, encouraging club officials he could produce enough at the plate to remain the starting center fielder. Logan, an outstanding defensive player who has been unable to stick in the majors because of his offensive struggles, was hitting .255 with seven walks in 18 spring training games.

But his job security already was beginning to come into question, and some were wondering whether Acta would ultimately bench Logan, move Ryan Church to center field and insert either Chris Snelling or Kory Casto into left field.

Acta said yesterday he would make those moves if Logan is forced to go on the disabled list. The manager committed to Church as his center fielder in that case but said the left field job would be up for grabs between Snelling and Casto.

“I’m hoping everything’s all right and he’s fine and he didn’t tweak it too bad,” Church said. “I feel comfortable [in center field]. It doesn’t matter. My whole thing is, as long as I’m in the lineup, everything will be good.”

Even before Logan got hurt, the Nationals were facing a tough decision whether to keep both Snelling and Casto on the Opening Day roster. Casto, the organization’s two-time minor league player of the year, figured to be the odd man out despite his impressive performance this spring because all the other outfielders are out of minor league options.

But Acta said yesterday morning he was considering the possibility of keeping the 25-year-old Casto on the roster and giving him two or three starts a week to keep him fresh.

Depending on the severity of Logan’s injury, Casto may now find himself making his major league debut sooner than expected.

“There’s a part of me that really wants to make this team, but if that doesn’t happen, it’s out of my control,” he said. “There’s nothing I can do. Its kind of one of those things you’ve got to take in stride. If it happens, it happens. So be it. I’ll be up there sometime this year hopefully.”

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