The Washington Times - July 22, 2009, 10:13PM

Just when you thought things were starting to go well in NatsTown. I just typed out this news item for tomorrow morning’s paper…

Jordan Zimmermann doesn’t believe the slight discomfort in his right elbow is serious enough to keep him from pitching tomorrow. The Washington Nationals, though, don’t want to take any chances with their top rookie hurler, so they’re shutting him down for the next two weeks.

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Zimmermann was placed on the 15-day disabled list following tonight’s game after experiencing tenderness in his right elbow following his last appearance. He’ll be replaced by right-hander Collin Balester, who was recalled from Class AAA Syracuse and will make his season debut tomorrow against the St. Louis Cardinals.

“We really feel it’s a situation we’re being ultra-conservative with,” interim manager Jim Riggleman said. “If this was a playoff hunt situation, there’d be no question about it. He’d be pitching. We’re just going to shut him down here for a couple weeks.”

Since his big league debut April 20, Zimmermann hadn’t missed an outing. He’s 3-5 with a 4.63 ERA overall but has shown steady signs of improvement, posting a 3.18 ERA over his last eight starts.

The Nationals had already planned to limit the 23-year-old to 150 to 160 total innings this season, so this DL stint will help keep the total down. Still, it was tough for Zimmermann to accept the decision.

“I could go out there tomorrow and pitch,” he said. “But there’s no sense in me going out there and maybe hurting myself more than what it already is.”

Balester, 23, was 7-9 with a 4.35 ERA for Syracuse, but had a 3.38 ERA over his last 12 starts and was already on schedule to pitch Thursday.