Sep 26, 2015, 3:26 PM EDT
When Reed Johnson first went down with a torn tendon his his left foot in April, he was given a recovery timeline of eight months. After just 12 plate appearances with the Nats, who signed him late in spring training, his season was likely over.
Then he defied the odds to begin a minor league rehab assignment on Aug. 13, months before he was originally expected to take the field. He played only five games before taking a ball of his left side during a game at Single-A Potomac. He later fractured a rib while sneezing.
That gave him another recovery timeline that put a return in 2015 well in doubt. But again Johnson rehabbed ahead of schedule and on Saturday was finally reinstated off the disabled list to join the Nationals.
There are only nine games left on the regular season schedule, and Johnson hoped to return in the middle of a pennant race, but just getting to this point is an unexpected and noteworthy accomplishment for the 38-year-old veteran.
“It gives you an appreciation of health,” Johnson said. “When everything seems to go wrong for you in a year but you’re still able to get that good taste in your mouth at the end of the year, that’s kind of what I’m after.”
Johnson, in fact, hopes to come back in 2016 for his 14th MLB season. He doesn’t know if that will be with the Nationals, if it indeed happens, but Johnson believes he still has something left.
“There is no doubt in my mind that I want to play next year,” he said. “There’s a desire. If there was no desire and I didn’t want to play baseball anymore, then it’d be different. But I have that and I want to come back. I not only want to show that I can play, but I enjoy the game.”
To get back ahead of schedule, Johnson used a hand bike to stay in shape and get his heart rate up on a regular basis. He has been hitting in the batting cage for weeks now and played in a simulated game at Nationals Park on Friday.
Johnson is returning without a minor league rehab assignment this time, but thinks his experience as a bench player will allow him to adjust quickly.
“Being where I’ve been in my career, as far as being a bench player for the last few years, you go long stints without starts,” Johnson said. “You go long stints without at-bats. Last year I had a couple different 29-day stints without at-bats, which was a completely healthy season for me, as well. It’s one of those things where you learn how to keep your swing sharp in the batting cage.”
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ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
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