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After Year Of Injuries, A New Larry Broadway Emerges In AFL

[October 19th] -- Larry Broadway was at a career cross-roads this past season. Blocked from the major league roster by Nick Johnson, Broadway realized that his future might lie with another organization. His hope was to prove himself at 'AAA' New Orleans in 2005 and then "hope for the best." His season looked promising. Until opening day that is. A groin injury sustained in the first game made it difficult to swing the bat. As a result, he was hitting only .193 thirteen games into the season. Then things got worse. In late May, Broadway tore a ligament diving for a hard hit ball, side-lining him for the next 2 1/2 months of the season. When he returned in late June, fans saw the beginning of a new Larry Broadway.

When he first saw Broadway hit, Zephyrs' manager Tim Foli nicknamed the Duke University graduate "Olerud" because of his tall, slender build and "natural" left-handed stroke. It was thought that Broadway would have a higher average than most first baseman, but less power.

No more.

Broadway used his "downtime" during his injury rehab to gain 20 pounds of muscle, going from a lanky 220 to a solid 240. The above image [left] was taken during Spring Training 2005, while the other was taken this week during the Arizona Fall League.

His strength training is paying off in Arizona. In 11 games, Broadway is hitting .375 with a home run and 5 rbi's. He has a .512 OBP and is slugging at a .563 clip. His defense has always been one of his strengths, making him a key component for the Nationals next year, either as a tradeable commodity or a replacement for Nick Johnson at first.

Johnson again suffered through an injury-plagued season in 2005. With almost 1,500 at bats in the major leagues now, we can make some general conclusions about Johnson's ability to help the Nationals in the long term. For his career, Johnson has averaged a home run every 27 at-bats, similar to John Olerud's 29.7 . Power-hitting first baseman typically hit a homer every 15 or so at bats. Jason Giambi (16.5), Albert Pujols (14.7) and Carlos Delgado (14.9) all fall within that range. Johnson never will never be a slugger. Assuming that Nick can stay healthy for an entire season and reach 500 at bats, he would likely hit only 17-19 home runs, not enough for a team already devoid of power.

Larry Broadway's new-found strength, coupled with his proven success in the minor leagues, should provide him the chance to at least push Johnson for the starting job in 2006. If Johnson [finally] shows us that he can play an entire year healthy, Broadway could be used as trade-bait for pitching or a speedy outfielder. If, however, Broadway is the "real deal," then Johnson might be the one traded for help elsewhere.

One thing is for sure: No Nationals' fan wants to go through another season like 2005 where all eight starting position players missed playing time due to injuries. Perhaps the first step towards that end is to rid the team of players who are intimate with the disabled list.

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