- The Washington Times - Monday, June 2, 2008

— Though Ryan Zimmerman insists his sore left shoulder feels progressively better each day, concern over the injured Washington Nationals third baseman seems to be increasing.

Zimmerman missed his seventh consecutive game yesterday because of the shoulder trouble, and he will have an MRI exam in the District in advance of this week’s homestand against the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants.

“If it doesn’t get better, I mean, we’re going to have to do something,” he said before yesterday’s series finale against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Doctors initially said Zimmerman suffered no structural damage in his shoulder when he hurt himself sliding headfirst into second base May 18 in Baltimore. But the pain has not completely subsided, and Zimmerman still wasn’t 100 percent when he tried to take batting practice Saturday.

Club officials decided it’s time for a more thorough medical examination, so Zimmerman will visit team orthopedist Ben Shaffer today and have an MRI in attempt to determine whether there’s something more serious going on.

Guzman’s slick glove

For all the attention Cristian Guzman has been receiving for his offensive production this season, the Nationals shortstop has been equally as impressive in the field.

In 56 games so far this year, Guzman has committed only four errors. His .983 fielding percentage ranks fifth among all major league shortstops who have played in at least 40 games.

“Outstanding,” manager Manny Acta said. “It’s nothing new. All we needed for him was to be healthy. His arm wasn’t in top shape last year or the year before, but now we can see that whenever he has to put something on the ball he does it. He’s been solid for us.”

Guzman, whose career fielding percentage is .972, is enjoying perhaps his finest all-around season since debuting with the Minnesota Twins in 1999. And with a .300 batting average, the 30-year-old is garnering consideration for his second All-Star Game selection.

Injury updates

Of the six Nationals players who went on the disabled list in May, second baseman Ronnie Belliard and right fielder Austin Kearns are making the most notable strides toward returning.

Belliard, out since May 16 with a strained left calf, worked out on his own at Nationals Park while the team was on the road and is expected to resume on-field activities with the club this week.

Kearns, out since May 22 with loose bone fragments in his right elbow that required surgery, won’t be back until the end of the month at the earliest, but Acta said he has nearly regained full range of motion in his elbow.

Catcher Paul Lo Duca, who broke a bone in his right hand May 7, has been hitting soft toss but remains a ways from returning.

First baseman Nick Johnson, out since May 15 with a torn tendon in his right wrist, is about ready to take the cast off his arm.

Reliever Chad Cordero (torn muscle in the back of his right shoulder) has been playing catch every other day.

Catcher Johnny Estrada (nerve irritation in his right elbow) remains out.

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