- The Washington Times - Friday, March 30, 2007

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A smile as wide as the infield from Washington Nationals manager Manny Acta was the first indication. A hearty handshake with trainer Lee Kuntz was another.

The pair had just watched center fielder Nook Logan run the bases in Cooper Stadium, do sprinting and cutting drills in the outfield and push his strained groin to the limit — all without discomfort.

Logan pronounced himself ready for game action for the first time in more than a week, and Acta will grant his wish today when the Nationals and Baltimore Orioles play their penultimate spring training game in Norfolk.

“I wish my other eight guys ran like that,” Acta said after the Nationals and Orioles played to a 3-3 tie in 10 innings. “He’ll play [today] and have a couple of at-bats.”

The teams play their preseason finale tomorrow in RFK Stadium, and Acta said Logan had to play in at least one of the games to be in the starting lineup Monday against the Florida Marlins.

“I don’t see how we can throw him out there on Opening Day without playing a game,” he said.

Logan seemed eager to test the injury yesterday in Columbus, site of the Nationals’ new Class AAA affiliate, but understood the need for caution.

“I’ve got to take time with it,” he said. “If they wanted me to play, I would, but they wanted to hold off another day.”

He said the groin felt fine but that he was experiencing some general soreness after a series of agility and mobility tests Wednesday.

“As far as the groin, everything is going well. The only thing I don’t like is the wrap,” he said. “Everything else is cool.”

If Logan is cleared for the opener, it is expected rookie left fielder Kory Cato will be sent to the Columbus Clippers.

“I don’t know whether Kory starts the year [with Washington] or in Columbus, but it’s clear he doesn’t have a lot more time left in the minor leagues,” Nationals president Stan Kasten said. “It’s clear he’s a major leaguer.”

King of the Hill

Shawn Hill’s final exhibition start was a chance to work on his off-speed pitches and hone his curve. He succeeded on both counts. He allowed three runs (two earned), struck out six and walked one while allowing eight hits in seven innings.

“I feel a lot more comfortable now,” he said. “My changeup and curveball were working. If I stay healthy all season, I should get six or seven innings every time I pitch.”

Homecomings

Nick Johnson, who played for the Clippers in 2001 and for a smattering of games in 2002 and 2003 while in the New York Yankees organization, made the trip to Columbus to continue his rehabilitation from a fractured right leg.

“It was weird walking in here. I hadn’t been back in six years,” he said.

Also returning to Columbus was reliever Jesus Colome, who appeared in 25 games for the Clippers last season.

Capital idea

Vice president and general manager Jim Bowden likes having the Nationals’ Class AAA affiliate in the International League rather than the previous stop, New Orleans of the Pacific Coast League.

“The [biggest] advantage for us is if we need to make a player move, we literally can make a move at 3 o’clock and get the player there for the game that night,” he said. “When we had our team in New Orleans, if we made a player move there was no chance of getting a player there. That makes a big difference, as well as having Columbus so close to our other affiliates — [Class AA] Harrisburg, [low Class A] Hagerstown, [high Class A] Potomac. It’s a lot easier to get our instructors and roving coordinators in right after each other.”

Family first

Catcher Robert Fick flew to Thousand Oaks, Calif., from Florida to be with his ailing mother.

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