WASHINGTON -- Since first baseman Nick Johnson joined the Nationals/Expos in 2004 there have always been questions about his health and 2009 will be no different. He is still recovering from right wrist surgery, which repaired a torn tendon sheath.
In fact, Tuesday marked the first time Johnson, 30, did any kind of baseball activities since May 13, 2008. He has undergone underwater therapy, trying to swing the bat.
"The wrist is getting there. I can do a little bit more now. I do therapy three days a week," Johnson said. "I'm starting to push it a lot more. I'm starting to do some stuff under water with the bat. It's real light and I'll work my way up from there.
"I'm going to take it slow. As soon as I start getting [on the field], I'm going to [work hard]. I'm planning to come to Spring Training early anyway."
On May 15, the Nationals placed Johnson on the 15-day disabled list with the wrist injury. For a month, the team thought rest would heal the injury, but he ended up going under the knife. Johnson hurt his wrist during his last at-bat on May 13 against the Mets at Shea Stadium.
The injury marked the ninth consecutive season in which Johnson landed on the disabled list because of an injury. His worst injury occurred in September 2006, when he broke his right leg at Shea Stadium. He missed the 2007 season because of the injury.
"I have no idea [why I have these injuries]," Johnson said. "I don't ever wonder, I just deal with it and get healthy -- go back out there and grind away."
Johnson's absence was a huge blow to the Nationals, because he was the only one who was consistently getting on base. Although he was hitting only .220, Johnson had a .415 on-base percentage. He also played great defense.
Because of Johnson's history with injuries and Dmitri Young's problems with diabetes and staying in shape, the Nationals are thinking about acquiring another first baseman this offseason. Whether they go out and spend a lot of money on a free agent such as Mark Teixeira remains to be seen. They most likely will have to trade for a player such as Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder. This much is certain: Washington wants a middle-of-the-order bat.
Johnson is aware of the Nationals feelings regarding the first-base situation, but he gave a reason why they shouldn't look for a replacement.
"I'm planning on being ready for Spring Training," Johnson said. "I've been hurt for so many years. I can see both sides. For myself, I'm planning on being ready to go. If they go another way, then they go another way. I just have to get ready to play."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.