ATLANTA -- Robert Fick returned to the Nationals on Tuesday, and was activated from the Bereavement List when outfielder Brandon Watson was optioned to Triple-A Columbus after Tuesday night's game against the Braves.

Fick left the team last Tuesday, but wasn't put on the Bereavement List until the next day. Fick went back to Los Angeles after his mother, Gloria, passed away from lung cancer.

During his first day back with the Nationals, Fick was not idle. Before the game, he was playing catch and took batting practice. He then went in the broadcast booth and appeared with Nationals radio broadcasters Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler in the second inning and TV broadcasters Bob Carpenter and Don Sutton the following inning.

Fick was in great spirits and said that he is relieved that his mother is no longer suffering.

"Burying your mom is one of the tougher things to ever do," he said. "I feel a sense of relief that she is not suffering any more. Before my dad died, he was sick and then he would get better. My mom was sick and she was not getting better. It's better that she passed away."

During the bereavement period, Fick said he received flowers from the Nationals' organization and plenty of phone calls from his teammates. He also credited general manager Jim Bowden for sticking by him the last two years when his mother was ill.

"Through the past couple of years, he has been by my side and I really can't say enough about him. He helped me out a lot," Fick said. "[The baseball field] is where I need to be. Like I said before, this is where I get my peace, talking ... to the media and all my teammates."

Fick's return means that he will be the go-to guy off the bench now that Ronnie Belliard is the everyday second baseman. Fick's hitting was improving before he left for California. He was 7-for-25 (.280) during the month of June. For the season, he is hitting .217.

"We need Robert -- big time -- with him and Tony Batista coming off the bench, now that Belliard is pressed to play every day," manager Manny Acta said.

More on Watson: Sent down to make room for Fick on the 25-man roster, Watson started five games in center field and hit .278 (5-for-18) with two RBIs and one stolen base.

Watson clearly provided energy to the team, but he still had an option left. A player like Nook Logan, who has struggled lately, doesn't have options, which means he would have to be designated for assignment. There may have been a chance that Logan may have been claimed off waivers.

"It's not something I'm excited about, but I did all I could do while I was here," Watson said. "I will go back down there and keep playing."

Van Buren dealt: The Nationals traded right-hander Jermaine Van Buren to the A's for a player to be named later on Tuesday afternoon. There was a strong rumor around the Nationals clubhouse that center fielder Milton Bradley was that player, but when reached by phone, Bowden said the rumor was false.

Bradley, a close friend of Nationals catcher Brian Schneider and his family, was designated for assignment last week. The Athletics had traded him to the Royals last week, but that deal was voided last Friday because Bradley has an oblique injury. He was hitting .292 (19-for-65) with two home runs and seven RBIs.

Schneider acknowledged after Tuesday's game that Bradley can get emotional at times, but he would love to be have him on the team. Schneider and Bradley were Minor League roommates in the Expos system.

"He's a good guy. Me and Milton get along well," Schneider said. "We butted heads at times, but we understand each other. He's the kind of guy that you have to get to know. He's a good teammate, he plays hard and he wants to win so badly. He'll do whatever it takes. I would love to have him over here."

Injury report: Right-hander John Patterson, on the disabled list with a sore right elbow and biceps, saw Dr. John Conway in Texas on Monday. Conway didn't want to come to any conclusions until he had more data from the tests Patterson took.

Patterson is expected to see Dr. Louis Yocum in Anaheim, Calif., on Tuesday or Wednesday, Dr. Gordon Brodie in San Jose, Calif., on Thursday and Dr. Rod Thompson in St. Louis on Friday.

Reliever Jesus Colome had surgery on Tuesday to get rid of the soft-tissue infection on his right buttocks. Acta said there was no timetable as to when Colome will return to the mound.

New leadoff hitter: Acta decided to make Ryan Langerhans his leadoff hitter because he has a .357 on-base percentage with the Nationals entering Monday's action.

"He has done well during the time he has been here. I can't take away what he did with the Braves or in Oakland," Acta said. "We don't have that many options, either."

Langerhans, who has experience in the role, becomes the sixth player to hit first for the Nationals this season. Belliard, Guzman, Felipe Lopez, Watson and Josh Wilson have also had the distinction of leading off.

Coming up: The Nationals play the finale of a three-game series against the Braves on Wednesday night at 7:35 ET at Turner Field. Washington left-hander Micah Bowie will face Atlanta right-hander John Smoltz.