- The Washington Times - Friday, August 15, 2008

After missing more than a month with an injury he thought would keep him out only a few days, infielder Aaron Boone returned to the Washington Nationals‘ lineup Thursday night.

The Nationals activated Boone from the 15-day disabled list, and he started at first base, playing in the majors for the first time since straining his left calf muscle July 6. To make room, the Nationals placed shortstop Alberto Gonzalez on the disabled list retroactive to Aug. 5 with a strained left gluteal muscle.

“With the calf, you can’t really protect it. You can’t really play on it three-quarters,” Boone said. “It’s my first significant muscle strain, and you realize it needs to be at or near 100 percent to be able to play at a high level.”

The infielder’s return gives the Nationals another option at first base, a position where they have been short on depth since Dmitri Young went on the disabled list in late July.

Washington has used Ronnie Belliard and Kory Casto, neither a natural first baseman, at the position. Manager Manny Acta said the Nationals now will rotate Boone, Belliard and Casto, depending on matchups.

Boone’s return comes at a time when the chances of Young playing again this season appear as bleak as ever. The club put him on the disabled list with the idea he would get his diabetes under control and then go to the team’s Gulf Coast League affiliate in Viera, Fla., to get in better playing shape before returning.

But as the weeks go by without Young heading to Florida - Acta said Thursday the first baseman is still in the District - and the early September end of the minor league season approaching, the possibility grows that he won’t have enough time to rejoin Washington this season.

“We’ll have just so many days to get him in playing shape,” Acta said. “It depends when he’s done controlling his diabetes.”

Guzman, Flores scratched

Shortstop Cristian Guzman and Jesus Flores were removed from the Nationals’ lineup before Thursday night’s game. Guzman’s left thumb injury, which has bothered him for more than a month, flared up, and Flores was scratched with a stomach virus.

Acta said after the game Guzman likely would get “a couple days off,” while Flores took intravenous fluid and should be able to play Friday against the Rockies.

Crow talks in final day

As the Nationals’ window to sign first-round pick Aaron Crow enters its final day, the Missouri right-hander’s camp has made several moves to give the impression Crow won’t back off his demands.

After the pitcher signed with the independent Fort Worth Cats on Wednesday, agent Randy Hendricks told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “We wouldn’t have had him sign with the Cats if we thought he was going to sign with the Nationals. The last time I talked with [Nationals general manager] Jim Bowden, he didn’t think there was anything more to talk about. I didn’t disagree.”

Crow is believed to want a major league contract worth more than $4 million, something the Nationals haven’t been willing to give their draft picks in the past. Washington has until midnight Friday to sign Crow; otherwise, he would re-enter the draft next season.

“Our real focus is on Aaron pitching for the Cats and entering the draft next season,” Hendricks told the Star-Telegram.

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