- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 9, 2014

For the first time since July, Ryan Zimmerman had the homefield dirt stuck in his cleats following batting practice.

The injured veteran participated in batting practice Tuesday, which is progress. Zimmerman has not played since tearing his right hamstring in Colorado on July 22. Step by step, as the calendar creeps closer to the end of the season, Zimmerman tries to comeback.

“It’s healing,” Zimmerman said. “When you do these things, they almost never all the way heal.”

Zimmerman had an MRI within the past couple days which showed significant improvement for his injured hamstring. That, plus Tuesday’s batting practice participation, has stirred some hope for Zimmerman that he can return before the end of the year to play left field, third base or first base, depending on manager Matt Williams’ preference.

However, Zimmerman has not run much. That will be the main test for him. His right leg is his load leg at the plate and in the field, but being able to run the bases without issue remains the key. He has only been jogging and doing that at “50-60 percent.”

“We really have to just take our time, as frustrating as it is now because we’re so close,” Zimmerman said. “You can’t go through what we’ve gone through and get here and rush. Then you can pretty much waste all the time that we’ve (worked) this however many weeks it’s been.”

Zimmerman said they changed some of his training and weight lifting to help healing. He also said he’s not able to take his normal amount of swings without getting fatigued or being sore the next day.

It’s been a challenging season for Zimmerman. He’ll have the fewest at-bats in a season since becoming a full-time player in 2006. He’s had to vacate his post as the everyday third baseman and adapt to left field and first base. To top it off, he injured his hamstring.

Meanwhile, the team has built an eight-game lead in the National League East coming into Tuesday’s game with the Atlanta Braves. That tempers the urgency around Zimmerman’s return.

“Coming out here and being on the field, everyone is going to get excited, including me,” Zimmerman said. “We’re going to have to pump the brakes a little bit. We have to make sure when I come back, I’m ready to play.”

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