VIERA, Fla. (AP) -Nick Johnson is ready to return, once again.
More than 17 months after a collision with teammate Austin Kearns left Johnson with a broken right leg, Washington's oft-injured first baseman is looking forward to returning Wednesday when the Nationals open their exhibition season against Florida.
``It's been a long time,'' Johnson said. ``I missed spring training last year, so this one's pretty fun just to be out there and not rehabbing, walking the stadium and watching the guys practice.''
Nationals manager Manny Acta said he expects the 29-year-old to play.
``He's looking good,'' Acta said. ``I just keep trying to compare it with last time I saw him, and he looks fantastic.''
Johnson and Kearns collided at Shea Stadium on Sept. 23, 2006, while attempting to catch a fly ball against the New York Mets.
Johnson underwent surgery to repair the injury and ended the season with career highs in games (147), hits (145), doubles (46), homers (23), RBIs (77), runs (100), walks (110), slugging percentage (.520) and on-base percentage (.428).
Johnson has missed time in all his major league seasons since his debut in 2003. The most important thing now is learning to play without apprehension.
``He just needs a bat and see how we go from there, how he can overcome any type of fear that he has,'' Acta said. ``Probably sliding or making any kind of sudden move, but he looks like he's ready to go.''
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