Bill Ladson

Nats hire Johnson as Spring Training guest instructor

Prospects to begin accelerated camp

Nats hire Johnson as Spring Training guest instructor

VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals have hired former Major League first baseman Nick Johnson as a guest instructor during Spring Training. He is expected to be with the team for 10 days.

The invitation came from manager Dusty Baker, who felt Johnson would be a good person to give advice to the players about anything from hitting to dealing with injuries. Baker remembered that when he was a player with the Dodgers, the team would often invite great players such as Sandy Koufax and Don Newcombe to camp.

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Johnson, 37, had plenty of experience during his 10 years in the league, most of it was spent with the Nationals and Expos from 2004-09. During his five-plus years in Washington, Johnson was an excellent defensive first baseman and had a .408 on-base percentage. He also dealt with a lot of injuries during his career.

"I know Nick was popular here, he was a very good player," Baker said. "He could tell people about the ups and downs -- what it's like to get injured and your career gets cut short. I thought Nick would just fit."

Johnson spent the first day watching live batting practice. It was his first Major League action since he played with the Orioles in in 2012.

"I'm just going to be around. If the players have a questions, I'm here. I'm going to watch some baseball," Johnson said.

In other news, starting Thursday, the Nationals will start their accelerated camp for their top prospects. Players such as outfielder Victor Robles, left-hander Taylor Hearn and infielder Drew Ward are expected to be there. After taking their physicals, the prospects are expected to practice on the diamond starting this weekend. The prospects will then play exhibition games against the Mets.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.