Marrero's path to Nationals takes an injury detour

VIERA, Fla. - While the Nationals' pitchers and catchers undertake their first workout today, the early-reporting position players stretch and hit and throw, first baseman Chris Marrero will think about what might have been.

He'll run the steps at Space Coast Stadium, head to the trainer's room for therapy, maybe do some light throwing. But any hopes the 23-year-old had of picking up after his 2011 major league debut evaporated in November, when he tore his left hamstring in a winter league game in the Dominican Republic. The resulting surgery will keep Marrero sidelined, perhaps until after the All-Star break.

"(I) went too far and did like a split. ... I didn't feel too bad," Marrero said Tuesday in a crowded Space Coast Stadium clubhouse. "I was walking a little bit, but I knew something was wrong. I didn't know it was torn."

Given a chance to play regularly in September, Marrero responded with a .248 average, five doubles and 10 RBIs in 31 games. Manager Davey Johnson had him penciled in as a right-handed-hitting backup to first baseman Adam LaRoche, but after Marrero got hurt, the Nationals signed veteran utility man Mark DeRosa to fill that void.

"I'm doing all the rehab, doing whatever I can, strengthening it," Marrero said. "Working on the flexibility. Whatever I can do, I'm doing."

Whatever rehabilitative course he takes, Marrero is in for a slow recovery.

"I'm not sure yet," he said when asked about a timetable for his return. "It all depends on how my body's healing."

Watching his teammates get into their preseason routines and knowing he had a good chance to make the Nats' 25-man roster out of spring training is disconcerting for Marrero.

"I want to play and do everything, but if I can't, I'll deal with it," he said. "I don't like to think about it. The only thing I'm thinking about is getting healthy and getting back on the field."

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