- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 23, 2008

CHICAGO | Washington Nationals first baseman Dmitri Young has been cleared to resume baseball activities and hopes to return to the majors before the end of the season.

Young, on the disabled list since the All-Star break after his blood sugar level spiked, has gotten his diabetes under control and will travel to Melbourne, Fla., on Saturday evening to begin working himself back into playing shape.

According to Nationals general manager Jim Bowden, Young could return to the team sometime next month.

“His diabetes is under control,” Bowden said in an e-mailed statement. “We are hopeful that he will be able to contribute to the Nationals major league team in September.”

Young was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in November 2006 and spent time in intensive care for treatment. He considered retiring, but signed a minor league contract with the Nationals in February 2007 and won National League Comeback Player of the Year honors during an All-Star season.

That performance earned the 34-year-old a two-year, $10 million extension, but he reported to spring training this season overweight and struggled with back problems that landed him on the DL at one point. In 50 games before the All-Star break, he hit .280 with four homers and 10 RBI.

Upon returning from the break, Young complained of lightheadedness and fatigue from high blood-sugar levels and the Nationals placed him on the DL on July 19. At the time, Bowden said he had to first get his diabetes under control and then work himself back into “first-class physical shape” before he could play baseball again.

Revved-up Ronnie

Ronnie Belliard‘s torrid streak at the plate continued during Friday’s win. The veteran infielder went 4-for-5 with a homer and a double to pace the Nationals.

Belliard is hitting .452 over his last 18 games, a stretch that raised his average from .223 on Aug. 1 to .278 following Friday’s game.

“Ronnie has been on fire this whole month,” manager Manny Acta said. “He’s a professional hitter. He’s been around the league for years, and he’s a guy we can count on.”

A career .274 hitter, Belliard has rediscovered his stroke just as he has become a mainstay in the starting lineup. After sitting on the bench at times while Felipe Lopez got playing time at second base, Belliard moved over to first base, and his production has soared.

”Anybody can have a bad year, and I had a bad start to the season,” he said. “They play me more now, and I’m just starting to hit the ball better.”

Extra bases

Austin Kearns was out of the starting lineup Friday because, according to Acta, he continues to feel lingering effects from his May surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow. Kearns has played through it since coming off the DL in early July, but Acta said he sometimes has a difficult time getting his elbow loosened up for a day game following a night game. Kearns pinch-hit in the sixth inning Friday and finished the game in right field. …

Elijah Dukes (strained calf) came out of his first rehab game with Class AAA Columbus Thursday night after getting hit by a pitch, but team officials said the injured outfielder was fine and was only scheduled to get one at-bat. He planned to play more extensively Friday night, getting three at-bats for the Clippers.

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