Friday, February 16, 2007

Austin Kearns Troubled by Nick Johnson Mishap

With six weeks of Grapefruit League ahead, Nationals outfielder Austin Kearns reportedly remains troubled over having to face questions about last year's collision with first baseman Nick Johnson.

Kearns was coming in on a fly when he rammed Johnson, who had been backing up along the first base line, causing Johnson to break his leg. Johnson's recovery is going so poorly -- as he is slowed by weakness and discomfort -- that he may not be back until June.

But Johnson has assured Kearns not to feel guilty. He holds Kearns faultless, as well he should.

One needs only examine the record to know that Johnson has always been accident prone and brittle. If it hasn't been one thing it's been another, with five visits to the disabled list since he missed the entire season in 2000. Except for the last two years, Johnson has never had more than 400 at-bats in a season, and has yet to reach the 500-threshold in a 12-year professional career.

Johnson's lost time should have presented rookie Larry Broadway with a golden opportunity to demonstrate his talent, but Broadway's offensive production not only has leveled off as he approaches his 28th birthday, he has been injured almost as often as Johnson.

Look for troubled veteran Dmitri Young -- who was released by the Tigers after alcohol-related behavior issues last year -- to resurrect his career now that the Nationals have signed him to a minor league contract with a chance to compete to back up Johnson. Young has some miles on the odometer at 33, but hit .297 with 29 homers as recently as 2003.