Notes: Johnson hits off a tee

Notes: Johnson hits off a tee

SAN DIEGO -- Nationals first baseman Nick Johnson, on the disabled list because of a broken right leg, swung a bat off a tee for the first time on Wednesday afternoon.

Johnson acknowledged that his right leg felt a little sore while he was swinging the bat. He is expected to do this same routine for several days.

"I thought it went pretty good," Johnson said. "I wanted to see how my front side was. It felt a little sore when I twist and plant. I would like to get out there and compete. I just can't do it right now."

Johnson has made significant progress in the last month. He was seen jumping rope, making slant patterns like a wide receiver and jogging daily.

Johnson said there is no timetable as to when he will return to action. The Nationals privately are hoping he will return before the All-Star break.

Washington manager Manny Acta has not made it a secret that Johnson has been the missing ingredient to the club's offense, which ranks 30th in the Major Leagues. Johnson is a person who has a high on-base percentage and could protect Ryan Zimmerman in the lineup.

"He just makes everybody better," Acta said. "He is the guy that other teams fear. You have to throw him strikes. If you don't throw him strikes, then he will be on base for the other guys. He can run the bases. He is not a clogger. He is a good hitter."

Injury report: Nook Logan is expected to rejoin the Nationals on Monday in Milwaukee and start in center field. The news comes a day after it was believed that Logan needed more at-bats to get ready for Major League pitching. However, he is playing so well in the extended spring games that the decision was changed. Logan is running the bases without any problems.

Logan's return means Ryan Church will return to left field, with Kory Casto being a reserve outfielder. Casto started in left the last three games.

Jason Simontacchi, who has yet to play in a Major League game this season because of a groin injury, pitched against Triple-A Rochester and gave up six runs in 5 2/3 innings. With right-hander Jerome Williams on the disabled list, Simontacchi most likely will pitch against the Brewers on May 8.

Williams, who sprained his ankle last Saturday, already is playing catch.

Acta said Shawn Hill's left shoulder is sore, but he doesn't expect him to miss his next start, against the Cubs on Sunday. Hill is expected to have a bullpen session on Thursday.

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Take a seat: Acta gave first baseman Dmitri Young the day off on Wednesday against the Padres. Robert Fick received the start instead. Young is in a 6-for-46 slump.

Stats of the day: Felipe Lopez is hitting .302 (19-for-63) at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium, but .200 (10-for-50) on the road.

Did you know? Entering Wednesday's action, Nationals starters have a combined 2.09 ERA in the last six games.

Coming up: The Nationals have the day off on Thursday, and then they will play a three-game series against the Cubs, starting Friday afternoon. In Game 1, Washington right-hander Jason Bergmann will face Cubs righty Carlos Zambrano at 2:20 p.m. ET.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.