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03/31/08 1:50 AM ET
Johnson makes presence felt in return
Nationals first baseman drives in run in first game since 2006
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
WASHINGTON -- Nationals first baseman Nick Johnson is a low-key person. When he talks to the media, for example, his voice is low and he usually gives three- or four-word answers. However, one should believe that Johnson was on a high on Sunday night in the Nationals' 3-2 victory over the Braves. It was Johnson's first game since he broke his right leg on Sept. 23, 2006, in a collision with outfielder Austin Kearns at Shea Stadium. With his mother, wife and daughter watching in the stands, Johnson acknowledged he was a little emotional when he was introduced before the game. "When I was out there in center field, it was pretty cool," Johnson said. "It was just a lot of emotions going through my head -- all the work I put in, my family being here to see me go out there for the first time, it was great." Johnson made his presence felt right away in the first inning against right-hander Tim Hudson. With Cristian Guzman on third, Johnson blooped a double over the head of Braves first baseman Mark Teixeira, scoring Guzman. It was Johnson's first hit since Sept. 19, 2006, against the Braves. Kearns followed with a single to score Johnson. "It was great. It was pretty cool," Johnson said. "There was a lot of fun out there. Great time." Even Kearns got emotional seeing Johnson run the way he did. It became evident that Johnson's leg problems are a thing of the past when he motored home from second in front of Jeff Francoeur's throw to the plate. "It looked like he didn't miss a beat," Kearns said. "He had the slide and the little tumble. He was in midseason form. Nick is not hesitant at all. He is feeling good. That's all a big plus." Johnson, 29, missed all of last season while rehabbing his leg, and it was frustrating at times. Originally told that he would be ready for 2007 Spring Training, Johnson was still noticeably limping when February rolled around, and he was unable to participate in fielding practice until June, when he noticed he still wasn't right. He had problems backhanding the ball to his left and hitting the ball to left field.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.