The scene fans had longed to see finally played out at Nationals Park on Tuesday afternoon. After missing 58 games, Ryan Zimmerman was standing at third base taking grounders several hours before the Washington Nationals played the St. Louis Cardinals.
While Zimmerman was back in his usual third spot in the lineup for Washington's stirring 8-6 comeback win, his arrival coincided with news that first baseman Adam LaRoche will have season-ending surgery.
LaRoche, who's been on the disabled list since May 23 with a torn labrum in his left shoulder, had met with general manager Mike Rizzo, manager Jim Riggleman, trainer Lee Kuntz and team doctor Wiemi Douoguih to discuss his options.
The meeting did not take place until just before gametime, but one Nationals official, when asked if he was concerned, simply said, "Yes."
The decision was made that LaRoche would have the surgery, which will be performed by Dr. Douoguih on Thursday.
LaRoche played with the tear through much of spring training and the first two months of the season. While there was no pain in his swing, he didn't have the strength he's used to at the plate. That prompted a second doctor's visit at the end of May.
Zimmerman, though now almost completely healthy (he said he doesn't expect the soreness to subside until the offseason), could sympathize with LaRoche's struggles.
"A player's not the same when he's playing through things," Zimmerman said. "And it gets to that point where baseball players don't like to be the guy to not play through injuries, but a lot of times when you're playing through things, it's not helpful to the team. Our offense has unfortunately gone through a lot of that this year.
"I think we're starting to figure out it's not easy to plug guys into a major league lineup. When we're healthy, we've got a great lineup on paper. I don't think it's out of reach to say we can get back to that this year."
Describing a "frustrating" two months, Zimmerman was enthusiastic about his return, emphasizing that he'd taken the proper path back to the active roster. Despite the lengthy rehab for his injured abdominal muscle, the All-Star was ready to jump in and help a flagging offense. He went 1-for-5 with a double, a run scored and an RBI on Tuesday night.
"I think we went about it the right way and made sure I gave myself enough time to be as close to 100 percent as I can be when I get back," Zimmerman said. "We waited to the point where I can play every day like I usually do, and now it's time to go out there and play.
"I can't win eight games in one game. Nobody can do that. Our pitching and defense have been unbelievable this year, and unfortunately our offense has been banged up quite a bit. ... I'm going to take it easy and just kind of go with my slow-and-steady approach I've always had every game I've played, hopefully bring some energy and go from there."
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.