The Washington Times - April 10, 2011, 08:40PM

NEW YORK — The news on Ryan Zimmerman wasn’t great Sunday as the third baseman couldn’t offer any timetable for how long he thinks he might be sidelined with an abdominal strain, an injury he’s been dealing with since spring training but aggravted Saturday night.

Zimmerman was out of the lineup for the Nationals 7-3 series finale victory over the Mets and the team has an off day Monday before opening a three-game series with the Phillies on Tuesday at Nationals Park.

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“It feels bad enough not to play (Sunday),” Zimmerman said. “It’s worse than it was (since spring training) but it’s not terrible, so we’ll see.”

Asked if he knew how long he might be out while the strain heals, Zimmerman said “I don’t know.”

“Just like anything, it kind of goes in and out,” he added. “I’m sure everyone in here kind of has little bumps and bruises and just hope they don’t get worse.”

The news was compounded by the fact that Adam LaRoche was pulled from the game in the 11th inning after singling and moving to second base on a sacrifice bunt. LaRoche tweaked his groin on a checked swing in his first at-bat of the day, he said, and tried to keep stretching it and keep it loose but felt it tighten up when he slid into second base in the 11th.

The first baseman, who is already dealing with a slight tear in the labrum of his throwing shoulder, didn’t think he’d be out because of the left groin issue on Tuesday, but did admit that Monday’s off day is coming at a good time for him to get some rest.

LaRoche wanted to remain in the game in the 11th and felt that he could but both he and Riggleman also agreed that they’d want someone who could really move in position as the go-ahead run and there was no sense in risking the possibility of making the injury worse by leaving him in.

“It’s perfect timing for an off day tomorrow,” LaRoche said. “Come in, get some work done on it. I’ve had it before. I’ve had it in the exact same spot and I’ve had it worse than this where it’s really been hurting to run. It’s not terrible right now but I could see it getting that way if I don’t do something about it.”

LaRoche also added that it’s “really frustrating” having to deal with the types of nagging injuries that have been hampering him early this season.

“Looking back,” he said, “the last couple of years, I’ve had some little things like this early, but luckily they’ve kind of ironed themselves out and been OK the rest of the way. Hopefully that’s the case.”

So, here are your scenarios. Best case is that neither Zimmerman nor LaRoche miss significant time with their respective injuries, or in LaRoche’s case his most recent injury, and the Nationals primary infield remains intact for the most part.

The worst case is that either one or both could be looking at possible disabled list stints to fully heal and not keep the team shorthanded. The Nationals had to get creative Sunday afternoon when they used 18 players in the game, put every position player except Zimmerman in the game at some point and left only three relievers and three starting pitchers untouched. Ivan Rodriguez was used at first base and Jordan Zimmermann was even needed to pinch hit.

One thing to remember with Zimmerman is that it’s not an oblique strain — which seem to be becoming rampant in the major leagues. It’s an abdominal strain, on the front of his abs. Oblique strains almost always result in DL stays whereas Zimmerman may be able to improve enough the next few days to play through the ab strain.

LaRoche didn’t seem too concerned about his groin, hoping that a little time off and treatment will help keep him in the lineup but his shoulder is always going to be an issue and he doesn’t need another thing to be maintaining, pain-wise.

Now, should one or the other require a disabled list stint things could get interesting. The only other infielder on the Nationals 40-man roster right now is Chris Marrero, a first baseman. Obviously if LaRoche needs the DL that would be a possibility but if Zimmerman is the one who needs to go, the Nationals would most likely have to make a 40-man roster move to call up someone like Brian Bixler.

They could also bring Roger Bernadina up to the big league club as outfield insurance with the idea of using Alex Cora and Jerry Hairston Jr. primarily at third base while Zimmerman heals.

Either way, LaRoche is right about the off day coming at a good time for the Nationals infielders.