- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman started exercises on his left shoulder Monday, the first step toward his return from the small labral tear that has sidelined him since May 26.

While the exercises were fairly light and only meant to begin the process of strengthening Zimmerman’s shoulder, he said the pain in his shoulder is lessening. He will stay on anti-inflammatory medication and likely will meet with Cincinnati Reds medical specialist Tim Kremchek to develop a rehab program this week while the team is in Pittsburgh.

Manager Manny Acta said the Nationals haven’t ruled out surgery for Zimmerman, but the third baseman is optimistic it won´t be necessary.

“I don’t think we wanted to do the surgery anyway,” he said. “I wouldn’t say we’re in the clear yet. I haven’t even picked up a bat. But I’m optimistic after what I felt today, and we’ll see what happens.”

In fact, because the injury is not in Zimmerman’s throwing shoulder, he might never need surgery to repair it.

Neither Zimmerman nor manager Manny Acta gave a timetable for when the 23-year-old might return. But Zimmerman said he will play through as much pain as he can while still being effective.

“It’s not so much the pain. It’s just the performance,” he said. “I can play through the pain. It’s only going to hurt three or four times a game. I have to be productive. I’m not going to take somebody out of the lineup that can hit a home run when I can barely hit the ball.”

Belliard back

Second baseman Ronnie Belliard, who went on the disabled list May 19 with a strained left calf muscle, finished his rehab assignment with Class A Potomac last night and was activated after the Nationals’ loss to the Giants.

Belliard did not record a hit in 12 at-bats with Class AA Harrisburg, but Acta was not concerned with his offensive performance.

“He went 0-for-Harrisburg, but our concern is that he was able to play nine innings for three days at second and third, and that was fine,” Acta said.

With Zimmerman on the disabled list, Belliard gives the Nationals another option at third base in addition to seeing time as a middle infielder.

To make room for Belliard, Washington optioned right-hander Tyler Clippard back to Class AAA Columbus.

Perez, Wagner improving

Left-hander Odalis Perez played catch, making between 20 and 25 throws from 50 feet on Monday and reported no pain afterward from the shoulder tendinitis that caused him to miss a start Sunday.

Perez would be scheduled to pitch Saturday against the Seattle Mariners. He will wait until Thursday before making a final determination.

“It’s not bad,” Perez said. “I don’t feel pain. It all depends on what the trainer says.”

Reliever Ryan Wagner, who has been out since having shoulder surgery last June, threw 35 pitches in a simulated game on Monday and will head to Class A Potomac to continue working out while the Nationals are in Pittsburgh. Acta said, however, that Wagner is not ready to start a rehab stint yet.

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