- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 9, 2009

DENVER | Josh Bard grew up in the Denver area, which means he has had extra friends and family on hand all week for the Washington Nationals’ series against the Colorado Rockies. And that means he has had more people to fret about just how hobbled he looks running the bases.

“There’s a lot of guys that are banged up,” Bard said. “I’m just really slow, so it looks worse than ever.”

Bard’s lack of speed makes the right groin injury he has been playing with a little less of a concern for the Nationals when they watch him laboring around the bases — though he did go from first to third on Willie Harris’ single on Tuesday.

But it’s no less a daily struggle for the catcher to play through the injury, which he suffered running out a fly ball June 27 in Baltimore.

Bard said he has played through groin injuries before and this one bothers him only when he’s running — aside from the occasional twinge behind the plate. The Nationals’ training staff is doing everything it can to get Bard through the injury, putting him through resistance band exercises, doing ultrasounds, giving him medication and having him wear a “hip spike” during games that limits his range of motion and keeps him from straining the muscle even more.

But until Bard can rest the injury during the three-day All-Star break, it’s not likely to heal completely.

“It’s obvious that he’s not 100 percent, but he’s also slow,” manager Manny Acta said. “It’s not that this thing is slowing him down that much. You can tell that he’s not 100 percent, but he’s playable.”

Bard took last week’s series against the Marlins off because he didn’t want to go on the disabled list.

“They’re paying me to play, not to sit on the bench,” Bard said. “I think if we want to change the culture around here, it comes down to wanting to be out there, playing the game the right way. When I first came up, I saw guys like Ellis Burks taking three hours before games to get on the field. He didn’t have anything left to prove, but he loved the game and wanted to go play.”

Middle infield shuffle

The Nationals rolled out their fourth different middle infield combination in five games Wednesday, starting Alberto Gonzalez in place of Cristian Guzman at shortstop and Anderson Hernandez at second.

If Washington’s roster stays in its current shape, Acta is going to have a daily juggling act to get his middle infielders at-bats.

Now that Nyjer Morgan is starting every day in center field, Willie Harris is getting most of his playing time at second base, which adds him to a complement of middle infielders that includes Guzman, Gonzalez, Hernandez and Ronnie Belliard.

“You can never get everybody enough at-bats,” Acta said. “It’s the nature of the game. You have your everyday guys, and you do your best to keep everybody sharp.”

Chico’s rehab done

The Nationals announced that Matt Chico, who underwent reconstructive elbow surgery last July, has finished his rehab assignment. Chico was removed from the DL and put on the roster at Class AA Harrisburg, where he had been pitching at the end of his rehab stint.

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