- The Washington Times - Monday, June 5, 2006

ATLANTA — It’s been a rough couple of days for Ryan Zimmerman. As if the back spasms that sidelined him for a second straight game weren’t bad enough, the Nationals’ rookie third baseman also had to explain his alma mater’s stunning elimination from the NCAA tournament.

There wasn’t much Zimmerman could do about Virginia’s 15-4 loss to upstart Evansville on Sunday, and there isn’t much he can do about his back at the moment. Though he showed up at Turner Field yesterday expecting to be in the lineup, the Nationals didn’t want to risk it.

“Any time you’re dealing with the back, you never know,” manager Frank Robinson said. “So rather than take a chance on this developing into something real serious, try another off day and see how he feels tomorrow.”

The two-day layoff could help reinvigorate Zimmerman, who before this injury had missed only one other game this season (May 1 against the New York Mets while attending his grandmother’s funeral). The 21-year-old says he’s held up to the rigors of big-league life well, but the daily grind might have been catching up to him.

He first experienced his back problems over the weekend in Milwaukee and was given Sunday’s game against the Brewers off. He hopes to be back in the lineup tonight against the Braves, but admitted he could need a little more rest.

“I feel a ton better today than I did yesterday,” Zimmerman said. “I’d rather get it all better than try to come back and have to deal with it for a couple weeks. I’ll just take a couple of days off and get it over with.”

As for Virginia’s early departure from the NCAA’s, Zimmerman is already touting next year’s squad as a potential powerhouse.

“They’re going to be awesome,” he said.

Patterson in Woodbridge

John Patterson is scheduled to make a rehab start tomorrow night at Class A Potomac, his first game since going on the disabled list April 22 with a strained right forearm.

According to pitching coach Randy St. Claire, Patterson will throw 50 pitches, after which he’ll be re-evaluated to determine a plan for his next start.

Patterson will need to make at least one more rehab start (and probably two) following the game with Potomac. This is almost like a second spring training for the right-hander, who needs to build his arm strength back up.

Meanwhile, teammate Pedro Astacio started last night for Class AAA New Orleans at Memphis. Astacio, out since Opening Day with a similar forearm strain, was expected to throw 80 pitches or five innings, St. Claire said. He’ll probably make one more start before the club considers activating him.

Extra bases

Joey Eischen and Zach Day will each have season-ending surgery on their injured shoulders today. Eischen, who has a tear in his left rotator cuff, will be operated on by orthopedists James Andrews and Ben Shaffer in Birmingham, Ala.

Specialist Tim Kremchek will perform Day’s surgery in Cincinnati to determine how much damage the right-hander has. …

Robinson said right-hander Tony Armas Jr. should be able to make his next scheduled start Friday against the Philadelphia Phillies after complaining of back spasms during Sunday’s six-inning outing.

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