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03/31/09 6:04 PM ET

Young returns with a bang

Injury-plagued first baseman shows off his offensive power

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Nationals reserve first baseman Dmitri Young showed on Tuesday that maybe he is ready for the regular season. Playing in his first exhibition game since March 1, Young went 2-for-4 with three RBIs in a 7-2 victory against the Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium.

Young batted sixth and was the designated hitter for Washington. His best at-bats came late in the game. In the seventh inning, Young hit a three-run homer against left-hander Nate Robertson. Two innings later, he singled to right field off Robertson before being replaced by pinch-runner Willie Harris.

"Dmitri was born to hit," said manager Manny Acta after the game. "There has never been a question in his mind or anybody else's mind. Whenever he has a bat in his hands, he has a chance to do what he did today."

But Young is not ready to be on the 25-man roster, according to the organization. It feels he is not in game shape. Young missed most of Spring Training because of back and right hip problems, and he didn't start playing in Minor Leagues games until last week.

Young will take part in an extended spring camp for at least three weeks before going on a rehab assignment. He is not expected to join the Nationals until May.

"He is going to stay back over here and continue to rehab," Acta said. "We'll move forward after that and see when he is ready to play for us in D.C."

Young, who was confident he would be on the Opening Day roster, was philosophical when talking about staying behind at the Nationals' training complex. He said he is in the best shape since he signed with Washington.

"I'll do whatever to help the team out," Young said. "I'm pretty much ready to go. I'll just come down here to do what's important. ... If it's to come off the bench -- getting an at-bat here and getting an at-bat there and work myself in -- definitely, [I'm ready]."

The last time Young played in a Major League game was last July. He missed the second half of the season because of complications with diabetes and a strained left hip.

Young was scheduled to play against Braves in Atlanta after the All-Star break, but he suffered dizzy spells and was placed on the disabled list soon thereafter. Young's blood sugar level was just over 400 and he had vision problems.

"When you can't see, that's not good," Young said. "My vision was in and out. I had headaches."

It was time for a lifestyle change after the season. Young spent the offseason working with Nationals strength and conditioning coach John Philbin in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Young stayed away from fried food and food with sugar. He often worked hard on the treadmill and the elliptical machine. The hardest part was staying away from snack foods.

"I learned how to be disciplined after I had my scare last year," Young said. "I said, 'You need to do it or else.' I said that before. But when you get that scare again, I would be selfish if I didn't do [something about it] because I have kids now and I want to see them grow up and see the grandkids."

By the time he went to Spring Training, Young had lost a significant amount of weight. Young declined to say how much he lost.

"He has done everything I've asked him to do. He is coming along," Philbin said. "We have goals every week, every day and he has been hitting those goals. We record everything, because I'm big on that. He is right on target. He should be ready within a week or two."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.