The Washington Times - August 5, 2011, 11:44AM

DENVER — Ryan Zimmerman was 3-for-4 Thursday night with two RBI and a walk, a stat line that is becoming more and more common for the Nationals third baseman who has been waiting patiently to feel like himself again at the plate.

Zimmerman, who had surgery to repair a torn rectus muscle in his abdomen on May 3, returned to the active roster right on schedule six weeks later. He could play, but it would be inaccurate to say that Zimmerman was completely healthy — that he could go about his pre and post-game workout routines in a traditional manner.

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“The first while, I could play and I could be out there,” Zimmerman said. “But my strength and things like that that I guess people usually don’t know that we usually do a lot of stuff off the field, and that’s a big thing.” 

Zimmerman made no excuses at the time, never mentioning the soreness that would crop up — even as recently the week after the All-Star break — every few days that would prevent him from doing his postgame lifting or pregame conditioning or any of the strength work that all baseball players do but often times gets overlooked. Zimmerman said he couldn’t go more than a week, at best, without having to scale back his workouts or cut them off completely. He could sense a dearth of strength in his swing and kept waiting for the time would come when he wouldn’t feel like he was still in spring training while the rest of the league was playing in mid-season form.

That time is finally here. It’s been about two weeks, Zimmerman said, since he could do all that, and the results have been outstanding. In the last 12 games, Zimmerman is hitting .446 and he has five extra-base hits in that span. His strength has finally returned.

“I feel a lot better,” Zimmerman said Thursday night. “I think the biggest thing now is that I’m able to workout and do the things on the field that I wasn’t able to do the first two or three weeks just because I would get too sore. Now I’m to the point where I’m much more in my normal routine and am able to prepare for the game like I usually do which is a huge, huge thing.”

The soreness from the abdominal surgery is not completely gone. Chances are, it won’t be until the offseason when the Nationals third baseman has a chance to rest for an extended period of time. But the progress Zimmerman has made from his initial return to now is something that even he senses is a big development.

“It was frustrating,” he said. “But at the same time, I was just so happy to be back. I knew that I wasn’t performing in a way that I am capable of, but at the same time, it was better than sitting on the couch. It was frustrating, but it just takes time and being patient.”