The Washington Times - June 24, 2012, 07:02PM

BALTIMORE — Late Saturday night, Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson spoke at length about his concerns over third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and the inflammation in his right AC joint that was hindering him. Zimmerman’s average had dipped to .218. The Nationals were considering their options.

So it was with that as a backdrop that Zimmerman received a cortisone injection, coupled with a numbing agent, Sunday morning. Then he went out and had his first two-hit day in over two weeks. He drove in the only run in the Nationals’ 2-1 loss and struck his run-scoring single probably better than he had hit any ball in several games.

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The hope for Zimmerman now is that by receiving an injection every so often throughout the course of the season, the Nationals can avoid both losing him from the lineup for a prolonged period as well as keeping him in there as a shell of himself.

“I’ll definitely be fine until the All-Star break,” Zimmerman said Sunday. “I think concerning the second half, it just depends how it reacts to this and how long it feels good. If it starts to hurt again, we’ll consider doing something else or doing this again. It’s not something you want to get into a habit of doing, but it’s better than missing time.” 

Zimmerman described his feeling on the field today as “relief” and said any of that pain and pressure that he’d been dealing with — the same issue he went on the disabled list with at the end of April and cost him 13 games — was gone.

“It wasn’t so bad before that I couldn’t do anything,” Zimmerman said. “But obviously I wasn’t performing. To go out there today and feel a little bit like I could do the things that I’ve always been able to do gave me a little bit more confidence and just made (me) happier.”

The possibility exists that Zimmerman will require offseason surgery to go in and clean out some of the bone chips or fragments that are causing his inflammation — if extended rest once the season has ended doesn’t cure him. But for now, Zimmerman has been assured that there is no structural damage in his shoulder and that he won’t damage anything more by receiving the pain-killing injection as needed.

“Just like everyone else in this room there’s probably bone chips or fragments or whatever in there,” Zimmerman said. “If it continues to do this every few weeks, at the end of the year they can go in there and take the chips out but that’s about as minor of a surgery as you can have. I think it’s like four to six weeks so it wouldn’t be a huge deal in the offseason. We obviously don’t want to do that now. I can play through this and that’s what I plan to do for the rest of the year.”

Avoiding any kind of surgery, of course, is preferable but Zimmerman said if he was forced into a procedure the offseason would be the time for one that wouldn’t impact him or his season greatly. 

The Nationals don’t know how long each pain shot will last, so right now they’re in the exploratory phases of things. Zimmerman had a similar shot when he first went on the disabled list and that one, obviously, wore off eventually. 

“It got rid of it for a little while and it kind of crept back in,” Zimmerman said. “Now it’s back to the point where we’re not doing the 10-15 days (on the DL) because we know what the outcome’s going to be. We’ll just go with the shot and hopefully it’ll make it feel better for a few weeks at a time. If it gets back to where it was, we’ll give it another one.”