SAN DIEGO — The Washington Nationals got what third baseman Ryan Zimmerman called “the best possible news,” on Wednesday morning when an MRI done on his right shoulder didn’t reveal any significant damage.
The MRI, taken Tuesday in San Diego, confirmed the diagnosis of the Nationals’ team doctors that there was some inflammation in the AC joint that has been causing soreness when Zimmerman hits. A cortisone shot, injected Saturday, hasn’t yet had the desired effect but that, combined with rest, is the main treatment.
He will rest the shoulder one more day before testing it with hitting on Thursday. If there isn’t enough improvement, the Nationals will then send him to D.C. to receive treatment from team medical director Wiemi Douoguih, including possibly another cortisone injection, and a disabled list stint would be “more than likely,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said.
“I think the important thing is there’s nothing wrong with my shoulder,” Zimmerman said. “That was good news. I don’t think anyone really thought there was going to be anything wrong but just to get it done and have proof that there is nothing wrong is peace of mind. Now it’s just a matter of figuring out the combination to get it to relax. And once that’s fine then I’ll be able to play.”
If time on the disabled list is necessary, Zimmerman could be placed on it retroactive to Saturday, and eligible to return May 6 for the Nationals’ Sunday Night Baseball game on ESPN against the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park. Candidates to replace Zimmerman on the roster include right-handed infield/outfield prospect Tyler Moore, who is off to a hot start at Triple-A, and outfielder Brett Carroll, who was recently outrighted to Triple-A. Carroll has been in Viera, Fla., working on his swing since he was designated for assignment on April 14, preparing to join Syracuse.
Manager Davey Johnson also brought up the name of uber-prospect Bryce Harper, hitting .234 with six extra-base hits and one home run at Triple-A, but that possibility seems highly unlikely.
“I’ll address that when we find out tomorrow,” Johnson said, adding that his main options at third base in Zimmerman’s absence would likely remain Steve Lombardozzi, Mark DeRosa and Chad tracy, who got the start on Wednesday.
The hope, though, is that none of those contingency plans will be necessary. The MRI also confirmed to Zimmerman and the Nationals that he is not at risk of further or more serious injury by playing through some of the pain.
The 27-year-old reiterated that he did not believe the issue would cause him to miss “an extensive amount of time.” Zimmerman missed 58 games in 2011 with an abdominal tear, and any extended loss of his bat would likely be detrimental to a Nationals offense already lacking its cleanup hitter in Michael Morse and struggling to score runs as it is.
Looking relaxed in the clubhouse Wednesday, Zimmerman repeated much of what he said before he had the MRI: if it was later in the season, things might be different but, right now, this is the most prudent course of action. An MRI was not taken earlier, he said, because the condition seemed to improve with anti-inflammatories and treatment. But once it got to the point where he felt he could not play, the second look was necessary just to ensure there was no further damage.
“It’s one of those things where, if it was September, they would put something in my body and I would play,” he said. “But it’s April. Instead of trying to do that for five-and-a-half months every day, we’ll just make sure to get it better and then I’ll play the rest of the season.
“We’ve gotten off to a good start and we have the luxury of doing the right thing.”