The Washington Times - April 24, 2012, 09:07PM

SAN DIEGO — The Washington Nationals sent third baseman Ryan Zimmerman for an MRI on his right shoulder Tuesday afternoon in San Diego, wanting to get to the bottom of the soreness that is still plaguing him even after three days off.

Zimmerman said the soreness in his AC joint — which he insisted was not a structural issue in his shoulder — only arose when he was hitting. He tested himself with throwing and hitting on Tuesday and the throwing felt “100 percent.” He likened the feeling to a jammed finger or a sprained ankle — injuries he’d likely tape up and continue to play with but there’s no such solution for in his shoulder. 

SEE RELATED:


An X-Ray on the area came back clean, Zimmerman said, but the Nationals took the step to send him for an MRI given the extended period of rest he’d already had without clearing him of his symptoms. They expected the results of the MRI sometime Tuesday evening.

“I don’t have a good feeling,” said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. “I mean, he’s had three days off, had treatment to calm down (what) we thought was inflammation. Hopefully it’s nothing serious. We’ll know after they take the MRI.”

Johnson said the “guess” of Nationals medical director Wiemi Douoguih is that there could be a small strain in the area.

“If that shows up positive he’s probably going to be down for at least a week, maybe more,” Johnson said. “I certainly don’t want to think about anything over a week or 10 days. Just have to wait until I hear from that report tonight. I’ve got my fingers crossed.” 

Zimmerman, who was a late scratch on Saturday, hasn’t played since the Nationals’ victory over the Miami Marlins Friday night. But Nationals manager Davey Johnson said he was dealing with the soreness for at least three days before the Nationals ultimately scratched him from the lineup and it is unclear when he first hurt the shoulder, only that it happened on one of the many diving plays he’s made this season.

He stressed that he felt better on Tuesday than he did on Monday, and better Monday than he did Sunday. And he could actively and easily participate in everything except hitting. When he would make contact, he said, he’d feel it.

“I couldn’t hit the way I wanted to hit,” Zimmerman said. “There’s no point to go out there and do something you can’t get rid of.”

Zimmerman said he and the training staff had not gotten to the point where they’d discussed if playing through it could cause further injury, but he was optimistic he would not need a stint on the disabled list.

“It if it was Sept. 15 and we were a game out, I’d tape my right side up and we’d go for it,” Zimmerman said. “But it’s April. If it takes however long it takes to get ready, a day, two days, whatever, and then I get six healthy months instead of playing at 80 percent for six months, (that) just wouldn’t make sense.”

Right now, the plan is for the team to re-evaluate him each day to see what kind of improvement he’s had. Obviously that could change if the results of the MRI reveal something more dire.

“With how much it’s gotten better the last couple days, it’s just going to be a matter of whenever I can hit without feeling it,” Zimmerman said. “It’s not going to be smart to try and go do something through that, to play with that stuff for so long. To take however many (days) it’s going to take to get better, that’s definitely the smart play.”

Losing Zimmerman for any extended period of time would be detrimental to an already anemic Nationals offense. Mark DeRosa, who is 3-for-30 this season, was slotted into Zimmerman’s No. 3 spot in the lineup on Monday night. With Michael Morse already out until at least June, Zimmerman’s bat — and his career .287/.354/.477 slash line — as well as his glove, are vital to the Nationals’ success.

“We missed him a lot last year,” Johnson said. “And we’re counting on him heavy this year. That’s why we’re probably being a little overcautious. He did hit and he did throw well, but that’s not something we want to aggravate and make it longer.

“I’m already missing my four-hole hitter. I don’t need to miss my three-hole hitter.”