- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 23, 2009

Jordan Zimmermann doesn’t believe the slight discomfort in his right elbow is serious enough to keep him from pitching Thursday. The Washington Nationals, though, don’t want to take any chances with their top rookie hurler, so they’re shutting him down for the next two weeks.

Zimmermann was placed on the 15-day disabled list following Wednesday night’s game after experiencing tenderness in his right elbow following his last appearance. He’ll be replaced by right-hander Collin Balester, who was recalled from Class AAA Syracuse and will make his season debut Thursday against the St. Louis Cardinals.

“We really feel it’s a situation we’re being ultraconservative with,” interim manager Jim Riggleman said. “If this was a playoff hunt situation, there’d be no question about it. He’d be pitching. We’re just going to shut him down here for a couple weeks.”

Since his big league debut April 20, Zimmermann hadn’t missed an outing. He’s 3-5 with a 4.63 ERA overall but has shown steady signs of improvement, posting a 3.18 ERA over his last eight starts.

The Nationals had already planned to limit the 23-year-old to 150 to 160 total innings this season, so this DL stint will help keep the total down. Still, it was tough for Zimmermann to accept the decision.

“I could go out there tomorrow and pitch,” he said Wednesday. “But there’s no sense in me going out there and maybe hurting myself more than what it already is.”

The 23-year-old Balester was 7-9 with a 4.35 ERA for Syracuse but had a 3.38 ERA over his last 12 starts and was already on schedule to pitch Thursday.

Cubs interested in Beimel

Joe Beimel has a 3.35 ERA in 42 appearances this season. He has a track record of success pitching for quality teams. His one-year, $2 million salary is affordable. And, of course, he’s left-handed.

All of that makes the reliever a sought-after commodity, and there are indications that interest in the 32-year-old is ramping up. According to major league sources, the Cubs have expressed interest in Beimel, and the Nationals have responded by sending two of their top scouts to get a firsthand look at some of Chicago’s top prospects.

According to a club source, Washington sent scouts to Class AAA Iowa and Class AA Tennessee (the Cubs’ top two affiliates) on consecutive days earlier this week to get a better feel for some of that organization’s young talent.

Back to No. 2

Mired in an 8-for-69 slump that coincided in part with his shift to the No. 6 spot in the Nationals’ lineup, Cristian Guzman is now back in his familiar No. 2 hole. And Riggleman said Wednesday he intends to leave the veteran shortstop there.

Guzman hasn’t been nearly as effective as a No. 6 hitter (where he’s batting .143) as a No. 2 hitter (where he’s batting .333).

“I know that somewhere before the All Star break when he went down in that spot, he wasn’t really hitting as well as he had been,” Riggleman said. “You really don’t know if it was just a product of being in a slump or if it was a product of now hitting sixth. … But I think he probably didn’t feel comfortable down there. He probably wants to hit higher in the lineup.”

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