- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 13, 2009

ATLANTA | The Washington Nationals got the third opinion on Jordan Zimmermann’s elbow that they had been waiting for, and it confirmed Tuesday what the first two had said - the right-hander needs Tommy John surgery.

Dr. Lewis Yocum examined Zimmermann’s MRI results and agreed with Dr. James Andrews and Nationals team doctor Wiemi Douoguih in prescribing the operation for Zimmermann’s partially torn ulnar collateral ligament.

Yocum will perform the operation in California on Wednesday, and the 23-year-old will miss the rest of this season and most of next season.

Acting general manager Mike Rizzo said Zimmermann will rehab the rest of this season with the team and likely will rehab in major league camp next spring in Viera, Fla., where he’ll presumably stay until he’s ready to start a more formal rehab assignment.

It’s a similar path to the one Matt Chico was on this year, and Rizzo said Zimmermann is doing his best to cope with the diagnosis.

“He understands what’s going on,” Rizzo said. “He’s as upbeat as he can be about it. We foresee a long and successful career for him.”

Eckstein suspended

Major League Baseball suspended hitting coach Rick Eckstein for Wednesday’s game following his actions during Tuesday’s loss to the Atlanta Braves.

During the third inning, third base umpire Larry Vanover called Nyjer Morgan out while the outfielder was trying to steal third. The call - later shown by replays to be incorrect - prompted an uproar from the Nationals’ dugout, and interim manager Jim Riggleman went on the field to direct the attention for the argument to himself in hopes of keeping Morgan from getting ejected.

But Eckstein also yelled at Vanover from the dugout and was ejected from there before he stepped on the field to continue arguing with Vanover. Eckstein said MLB vice president of on-field operations Bob Watson told him any coach who comes on the field in the middle of an inning will be suspended automatically.

Eckstein also was fined an undisclosed amount. He was able to work with the team before the game, but Riggleman said he likely would have bench coach Pat Corrales brief hitters before at-bats on pitchers’ tendencies.

Dunn improving at first

When the Nationals traded Nick Johnson to the Florida Marlins on July 31, one of the chief concerns was how they would replace him in the field. Johnson is a solid fielder, and the two outfielders they planned to replace him with - Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham - aren’t exactly defensive assets at the position.

But quietly, the Nationals seem to have solidified the position, at least for now.

Dunn has made just one error in 10 games since taking over for Johnson at first base, having committed four in the 11 games he had played there before the trade.

“He’s a big guy, so sometimes you don’t recognize the athletic things these big guys can do,” Riggleman said. “He’s a big target over there. He’s got soft hands. He fields the ground ball well. … There’s going to be some game situations that sneak up on him now and then, but he’s been very heads-up.”

Kearns recovering

Riggleman said outfielder Austin Kearns, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a right thumb contusion and had to have minor surgery to clean out debris in his thumb, should be able to return shortly after his time on the list is up.

“I think we’re on pace to take the sutures out, close up the wound and let it heal,” Riggleman said. “It’s going to be a little while before he’s comfortable swinging the bat. But I don’t think it’ll be too much past his DL time.”

• Ben Goessling can be reached at bgoessling@washingtontimes.com.

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