- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 5, 2009

After being hit with a pitch against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday, Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was out of the lineup Tuesday, getting a rare night off to treat and rest his sore left shoulder.

Zimmerman has missed just three games this season and said he could have played Tuesday if he needed to. But it isn’t surprising the team is taking a cautious approach with the injury; after all, Zimmerman suffered a small tear in his left labrum after sliding headfirst into second base last May and missed 50 games because of it.

“I don’t enjoy sitting games out, taking days off,” Zimmerman said. “We figured it’d be better to treat it all day and kind of get rid of it instead of trying to play through it and have to play like that for however long that takes.”

Interim manager Jim Riggleman said he talked to Zimmerman about the injury on the team’s flight back from Pittsburgh, and the third baseman said his shoulder was getting progressively tighter. When he came in with a similar feeling Tuesday, the Nationals opted for the cautious route.

“Hopefully it’s a one-day thing,” Riggleman said. “But we’ll check him [Wednesday].”

Johnson returns

From the jersey (No. 20) to the colors (black, silver and teal) to the very fact he was in the visitors clubhouse instead of joking with Austin Kearns, Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman in the back of the Nationals’ clubhouse, everything about Nick Johnson’s return to Nationals Park felt a little off.

Johnson was traded to the Florida Marlins for minor league lefty Aaron Thompson on Friday; the first baseman was the last remaining Nationals player who was with the team in Montreal.

“You go out and see the guys,” Johnson said. “But when it’s time to play ball, it’s time to play ball and win.”

For Johnson, there’s another stark difference between his time with the Nationals and his new team: The Marlins are in the middle of a pennant race.

They are five games back of the Phillies in the NL East with a 55-51 record and four behind the Rockies in the wild-card standings.

“He just ends up being one of your favorites,” Riggleman said. “It’s probably not the right word to use, but you can’t help but appreciate him. He’s got a great demeanor, and he’s a total professional. We miss him. I hope he’s in a very competitive race down to the end, because I know he liked it here. If he was going to be somewhere else, it was going to be with a contending team.”

Johnson got a warm ovation from the Nationals Park crowd, about half of which was standing, before his first at-bat. He then proceeded to rip an RBI single just under the glove of Adam Dunn, one of his replacements at first base.

Kearns gets MRI

Outfielder Austin Kearns, who has made only two pinch-hit appearances in the Nationals’ last three games because of a sore right thumb, underwent an MRI on his hand on Tuesday and was out of the starting lineup for the fourth straight day.

Riggleman said the Nationals will know more about Kearns’ status on Wednesday but added Kearns was “a little tender” on Tuesday.

“When you hit, if you have anything wrong with you, when you go to attack that ball, your brain’s telling you, ‘This is going to hurt too much,’ ” Riggleman said. “But he gave it a great effort.”

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