The Washington Times - September 19, 2012, 03:21PM

It’s been 88 days since the Washington Nationals gave Ryan Zimmerman a cortisone shot in his inflamed right AC joint. Nearly three months since the third shot they’d tried on the third baseman saved his season, bringing his offensive performance back to the place he joked last week was “respectable.”

Zimmerman got his fourth cortisone shot of the season Wednesday afternoon before a doubleheader against the Los Angeles Dodgers in an attempt to continue to stave off the pain that the shoulder inflammation has caused. The possibility of offseason cleanup surgery still exists.

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“He’s playing great, as far as I’m concerned,” said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. “But the results from the last time he did it were so good and he felt so much better.

“It’s not near as bad [as it was back in June] but it’s been acting up a little bit here lately.”

Since the injection in June, Zimmerman has posted near MVP-caliber offensive numbers. In 75 games, Zimmerman has hit .332 with a .396 on-base percentage and .598 slugging percentage. He’s clubbed 19 home runs, 21 doubles and one triple. His batting average, which sat at .211 on June 24, is .284 on the season and he’s hit .298 with five homers in September.

But in June Zimmerman was searching for an answer — to the pain and the way he was performing. He needed the cortisone shot to work in order for the Nationals to continue to allow him to play through it and not risk surgery or further injury. This is different.

“That was a trying time,” Zimmerman said last week. “It was one of those things where I didn’t not want to play. I knew I was banged up, but I was good enough to play. You kind of compound that with struggling a little bit and it kind of snowballed.

“That was about as tough a six-week stretch as I’ve ever had in my career. To be able to look up there now and know I’ve been able to battle back from that, and more importantly, can actually help the team win now, I’m pretty proud of it.”

The Nationals have 16 games remaining in the regular season, but they’re hoping that’s followed by a deep playoff run and there’s no question they’d need Zimmerman operating at his best in order for that to happen.

“I think the difference between this one and the one in Baltimore is that he wants the cortisone shot now, because he’s feeling it a little bit,” said Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo. “In Baltimore [in June], he needed the cortisone shot to perform up to his standards. That’s the big difference.”

When the team gave Zimmerman the third shot, after two had been administered but not taken the desired effect (both in April), they ran through all the possibilities with him. They all knew another shot could be a certain possibility, perhaps much sooner than they ultimately needed to give it.

And they knew offseason arthroscopic surgery was also a definite possibility to clean up what is likely a small arthritic section where the acromion (shoulder bone) meets the clavicle. 

“I think it’s something that’s been discussed a couple times,” Johnson said Wednesday. “From three months ago, and we even discussed it little bit [Tuesday] night. It’s something that will definitely be seriously considered.”

The surgery would be minor and would not affect Zimmerman’s readiness for spring training.