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An early exit for Johnson

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Sports,MLB,Nationals,Brian McNally

Manager leaves dugout because of numbness in left leg

Nationals manager Davey Johnson left the dugout in the seventh inning of his team's game against the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday after becoming concerned about numbness in his left leg.

The problem was eventually diagnosed by Nats team doctor Wiemi Douoguih, after a battery of X-rays, as a normal narrowing of the disc between the L-3 and L-4 vertebrae in Johnson's lower back. He is on a dose pack of a corticosteroid that will help reduce the inflammation in his back before possibly receiving an injection in a few days to calm the nerves that pass through that area. After the game Johnson still hadn't regained feeling in his left leg.

"I hope not," Johnson said when asked if the pain would affect his status for this Sunday's playoff game against either St. Louis or Atlanta. "All our players seem like they've been on [medicine], taking it for inflammation. The results from that have been good so [Douoguih] thinks by [Thursday] morning I should feel a lot better."

Because a stroke is always a concern, especially for a 69-year-old like Johnson, he was given a heavy dose of aspirin and a muscle relaxer when the problem arose in the third inning. But when the weakness was still there in the seventh he left the field. Johnson noted that he had decompression surgery about 10 years ago to relieve back pain, but that this was unrelated.

Bench coach Randy Knorr took over his managerial duties for the rest of the game. He made the decision to pull starter Edwin Jackson from the game with two outs in the seventh inning and pulled Ryan Zimmerman in the eighth inning for a pinch runner. But Johnson's players were comfortable enough afterwards to joke about Johnson's condition.

"I thought he was just tired of managing," Zimmerman said. "Everyone else got a day off yesterday or today so I thought he was taking one."

"A little bit," Jayson Werth answered when asked if the players realized what was going on with their manager. "His back hurt. My leg hurts. [Ian Desmond's] leg hurts. Everybody's hurting. It's September. Maybe they were sympathy pains."

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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