- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 12, 2008

PITTSBURGH | Ryan Zimmerman will miss at least the next four to six weeks while attempting to rehab his injured left shoulder, a program that the Washington Nationals third baseman hopes will keep him from needing season-ending surgery.

Zimmerman was examined Wednesday morning in Cincinnati by orthopedist Tim Kremchek, who believes there is a 70 percent chance the 23-year-old can avoid arthroscopic surgery by building up strength around the slightly torn labrum in his shoulder.

“We will know at the All-Star break either way,” general manager Jim Bowden said. “If in fact he’s not better by the All-Star break, then at that time we’ll operate so that he’s 100 percent for next season.”

Zimmerman hurt himself sliding head-first into second base May 18 in Baltimore. He continued to play for the next week but sat out seven straight games after that before an MRI revealed the tear, landing him on the 15-day disabled list.

All along, Zimmerman expressed hope that surgery wouldn’t be required. He remained hopeful yesterday after returning to PNC Park.

“I knew we were going to take it slow,” he said. “Obviously, the four to six weeks is lenient. It could either be four or six. I don’t think it’s that much worse than I thought it would be.”

Recovery time from surgery would be three to four months, so it’s unlikely Zimmerman would return to play this season if he has an operation. If the procedure is required, the Nationals said it would happen this summer, not after the season.

“We will not wait till the season’s over to risk going into next year,” Bowden said.

Veteran Aaron Boone and rookie Kory Casto have been filling in for Zimmerman at third base for the last two weeks, but Ronnie Belliard got the nod Wednesday night and could get regular playing time there.

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