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Johnson has surgery, likely to be ready for spring

NEW YORK -- Nick Johnson had successful surgery on his
broken right leg, and the Washington Nationals' first baseman is
expected to be ready for spring training next year.

Johnson was injured Saturday in a gruesome collision with right
fielder Austin Kearns during a 12-6 loss to the New York Mets at
Shea Stadium. He was carted off the field and taken to a hospital,
where a titanium rod was inserted into his fractured right femur
during a two-hour procedure Saturday night.

"The surgery went well. He is expected to make a full recovery,
and be ready for 2007 spring training," team orthopedist Dr. Ben
Shaffer said in a statement Sunday. "Nick will remain in the
hospital for one or two days, and begin his rehabilitation today."

Doctors said Johnson's leg will be immobilized for six to eight
weeks. Dr. Peter Dzenis performed the operation at New York
Hospital Queens with assistance from Shaffer.

Several teammates visited Johnson in the hospital Saturday
night, including Alfonso Soriano, Brian Schneider, John Patterson
and Kearns. A few others called to check on him.

Patterson said once doctors were able to reduce the pain,
Johnson seemed OK. He was in good spirits before he went in for
surgery, joking around like his old self as they watched college
football on TV.

"Once they got him calmed down, he was fine," Patterson said.
"They had him pretty comfortable."

Patterson said the players left the hospital about 9:30 p.m.,
and Johnson fell asleep right after that.

"He'll be fine. He's a hard worker and this is what he loves to
do. I don't think there's anything to worry about with him,"
Patterson said. "All that muscle, he'll have to just rebuild it
all. But you can do that in an offseason."

Also, Nationals pitching coach Randy St. Claire checked into a
New York hospital with pneumonia and remained there Sunday. A team
spokesman said it would be determined Monday whether St. Claire
will travel back to Washington with the club.

New York's David Wright hit a blooper down the right-field line
in the eighth inning Saturday, and Johnson chased it along with
Kearns and second baseman Jose Vidro.

Johnson and Kearns slid for the ball, which landed between them
for a triple, and they appeared to bang knees and heads. Johnson
immediately rolled onto his stomach, appeared to scream in pain,
took off his hat and was face-down on the outfield grass.

The oft-injured Johnson had been enjoying his healthiest and
most productive season. He set career highs in nearly every major
offensive category, batting .290 with 23 home runs, 77 RBI, 46
doubles and 100 runs. He also finished with a .428 on-base
percentage and .520 slugging percentage.

Johnson played in 147 games, surpassing his previous best of 131
set last season.

"Just a freak thing that happened," Patterson said. "He only
had eight days to go to complete a full season and it's something
that we were all talking about and something he was happy about.

"It's unfortunate, but it happens. It's part of the game."

Kearns was not in the starting lineup Sunday against the Mets,
partly because of some lingering bumps and bruises from the
collision. George Lombard played right field, while Robert Fick
started at first base in place of Johnson.