BALTIMORE — Ryan Zimmerman went 0-for-4 on Saturday night — his second straight hitless night and an outing that made him 5-for-his-last-50. Then he finally admitted something still is significantly amiss with his right shoulder.
After the Nationals' 3-1 victory over the Orioles, manager Davey Johnson used the word "concerned" three times regarding Zimmerman and the inflammation in his right AC joint that already forced him to the disabled list once this season. Another disabled list stint is a consideration, as is a possible cortisone injection in the coming days.
"I'm obviously not 100 percent," said Zimmerman, whose average has dipped to .218. "It's just frustrating because it feels fine when I throw, it feels fine with I play defense. When I hit [batting practice], it's ok, it just hasn't translated into the game, obviously.
"I've been hitting for a while here, and I don't miss fastballs the way I've been missing fastballs. It's frustrating, but I've just got to continue to do my treatment and stuff and hopefully it will improve and we'll get to that. But if things keep going the way they've been going, we're going to have to do something."
If the Nationals decide to give Zimmerman any type of shot, they could use the upcoming All-Star break, which begins July 9, to allow Zimmerman the requisite 15 days to heal but only have him miss a maximum of 10 games. If the third baseman receives an injection and goes on the disabled list June 28, he could return July 13 when the Nationals open the second half in Miami.
"At some point, you kind of have to look at it and say: Is it smarter to go through this? Or should we try and do something using the All-Star break to get it better so that in the second half I can actually be 100 percent or a lot closer to 100 percent, and be a good hitter in the middle of this lineup on a team that, all signs look like we're going to be very competitive in the second half? I think that's important."
It's gotten to the point where Johnson might have to urge his third baseman to go beyond the usual treatment and take some time off.
"I know he's still having discomfort in the shoulder," Johnson said. "He's going to run out there. He's a gamer. ... But he's not getting to balls he normally gets to. He's been playing through it and playing through it and he's not going to say nothing, he's going to go out there no matter what. He knows we can use his defense and we all know he can hit. We know he's not 100 percent."
The shoulder soreness, which only affects him when he hits, first cropped up for Zimmerman at the end of April. He sat April 21 as a late scratch. With a rainout the following day, as well as an off-day while the team traveled to San Diego, the hope was he'd be ready to return by the time it opened a series with the Padres. Ultimately, he went on the disabled list April 28 (retroactive to the 21st), missed 13 games and was activated May 8.
Since then, Zimmerman has hit .216 with just eight extra-base hits. Until this point, he has refused to use his shoulder as an excuse for his issues at the plate — and he was reluctant to do so Saturday night as well. But the signs are too obvious now for him to ignore.
"It's not like I'm swinging at bad pitches," Zimmerman said, asked when the point comes that the slump is emblematic of the shoulder issue and not just a slump. "I'm just missing pitches that I usually hit. It'd be different if I was striking out and swinging at sliders in the dirt and swinging at fastballs above my chest or whatever.
"But I've been working decent counts and getting decent pitches to hit, and I just foul them back or am a tick late. And for me, if I'm in a hitter's count and I see a fastball, I usually am not continuously late pitch after pitch. That's what's so frustrating. But, like I said, I wish I had a definite answer, but it's just one of those things where you just have to keep going and if something happens, we'll deal with it when it happens."
Zimmerman has been getting treatment on his shoulder throughout, a regimen that includes ice, heat, massages and "a million different things you can try," he said. "I've just got to keep trying and hopefully one of them will react better than the ones in the past have."
"Nobody wants to stop," he said. "That's not the nature of this game. Everyone plays until basically they break, which isn't always the smartest thing, but that's how we've been raised in this game.
"But I haven't really been helping the team lately, offensively. I feel like I've done some other things to help the team win. It's just frustrating. Obviously we're playing good, we have a good team. And I want really bad to be a part of that."
The trick, of course, is figuring out at what point a player will break. Zimmerman said he is not close to that.
"You feel a lot worse than I feel right now [when you break]," he said. "You can't really tell now. You just keep going and keep grinding and hopefully something will help more than the stuff in the past has and you can make it. But it's just one of those things where I wish I could sit here and tell you one way or the other. I just can't."
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