The Washington Times - February 19, 2013, 04:15PM

VIERA, Fla. — Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson stood close by Ryan Zimmerman on Tuesday morning, watching his third baseman make throws from about 75 feet. After a few minutes, Johnson chatted briefly with Zimmerman, and their conversation continued later by the batting cage.

Johnson was pleased with what he saw.

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“He looked natural,” Johnson said. “Free and easy.”

Zimmerman said Wednesday, his third consecutive day of throwing, he will most likely progress to playing catch from 90 feet and expects to be hitting on the field with the rest of his teammates by the end of the week.

“It’s getting better and better each time,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman, who is already hitting in the batting cages, still likely won’t be ready to workout fully on both sides of the ball for about another two weeks.

But with his hitting coming along quicker than building up the throwing strength in his right shoulder following arthroscopic surgery last October, Johnson broached the topic of Zimmerman serving as a designated hitter during spring games. He was open to it.

“You don’t want to sit too long,” Johnson said, noting the DH-ing could help get Zimmerman to his usual 50-or-so at-bats for the spring. “When we start playing games, anybody’s going to feel the urgency of ‘Well I need to get in there.’ I want to go real slow with all the problems he’s had with the shoulder and offseason surgery, I just wanted to check that out and he had no problem with it.

“He knows what he needs to do. I feel like if you talk to him he’ll say he feels like he’s right on track to be where he wants to be by Opening Day, but what I saw (Tuesday) was really good.”