One by one the Nationals' pieces are returning to the field. Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is the latest injured player whose return is imminent. He begins a rehabilitation stint at Single-A Potomac on Friday night in Woodbridge.
Zimmerman broke his right thumb diving back into second base on April 12 in a game at Atlanta. He was off to a hot start through 10 games batting .364 with three doubles and two home runs.
Washington's offense has struggled without Zimmerman and left fielder Bryce Harper (torn thumb ligaments). The Nats rank 20th in team OPS (.695) overall. They have already brought back first baseman Adam LaRoche, pitcher Doug Fister and catcher Wilson Ramos from the disabled list. Harper and pitcher Gio Gonzalez remain on it.
Zimmerman's start this evening signals a return is close. In recent days he has taken fly balls in left field and took live batting practice for the first time on Wednesday. He will be the designated hitter for the P-Nats. But with Washington's crowded infield situation – and offensive struggles by left fielder Nate McLouth – Zimmerman could find himself at that position upon his return.
Zimmerman took grounders at third base on Thursday. He took grounders at first base on Wednesday. All that to go along with his outfield work.
"When the bone is healed, the bone is healed," manager Matt Williams said. "The good thing is that he was able to do a lot of things even when it was still broken. So it's not like he's got to get back into running shape and all that. He's been doing it. It's a question of timing and feeling good at the plate and seeing live pitching."
Williams said he wants to get Zimmerman time in the field, especially left, before he returns to the big-league club. Potomac is home through Monday so Zimmerman has time to get at bats before playing in the field.
"I trust the fact that what [Zimmerman is] telling me is what he feels," Williams said. "If he says he feels good then I trust that. But there's opportunity for us to potentially put eyes on him with our off day [Monday], too...A player is never going to tell you the truth – ever. So it's good to see him and see what his timing looks like at the plate. But he doesn't take long to get ready. In spring training anyway he's out of the chute first day hitting bullets everywhere."
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