On Friday, the club is expected to activate first baseman Dmitri Young from the 15-day disabled list. He will become the everyday first baseman in Johnson's absence, while Aaron Boone will be the backup. With Interleague action starting on Friday night against the Orioles at Camden Yards, however, Young most likely will be the designated hitter.
Johnson hurt his wrist during his last at-bat on Tuesday against the Mets at Shea Stadium. He was sent to Washington to get an MRI on Thursday, and that was when the doctors saw the tear inside the wrist.
"I felt a little pain after the swing," Johnson said on Wednesday. "I ended up walking. I went back on the field and it felt tight. I was trying to loosen it up out there. I wasn't going to hit if my spot came up again. It was pretty painful after the game."
This marks 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.
Johnson's absence is 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.
"I feel bad for Nick," manager Manny Acta said. "We want to see him play a full season and he worked extremely hard to come back to Spring Training and be in the shape that he is in, and now this happens. That being said, Dmitri is coming up and he will help our offense."
Young knows what it's like to replace Johnson. Last year, Young was the everyday first baseman and hit .320 with 13 home runs and 74 RBIs. For his efforts, Young won the National League Comeback Player of the Year.
Young, 34, went on the DL on April 8 with a lower back sprain. Before the injury, Young was 1-for-2 with one RBI in two games. Young recently played two games during his rehab assignment with Double-A Harrisburg, going 2-for-5 with one double and three walks.
"He is swinging the bat well and he feels he is ready to go," Acta said of Young. "He is going to come in and play DH, play first base. He can hit. He doesn't need that much time. He's a natural hitter."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.