- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 24, 2012

SAN DIEGO — The Washington Nationals sent third baseman Ryan Zimmerman for an MRI on his right shoulder Tuesday in San Diego, wanting to get to the bottom of the soreness that still is plaguing him after three days off.

Zimmerman said the soreness in his AC joint — which he insisted was not a structural issue — only arose when he was hitting. He tested himself with throwing and hitting Tuesday, and the throwing felt “100 percent.” He likened the feeling to a jammed finger or a sprained ankle — injuries he’d likely tape up and continue to play with but there’s no such solution for in his shoulder.

An X-Ray on the area came back clean, Zimmerman said, but the Nationals took the step to send him for an MRI. They expected the results Tuesday evening.

“I don’t have a good feeling,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. “I mean, he’s had three days off, had treatment to calm down (what) we thought was inflammation. Hopefully, it’s nothing serious. We’ll know after they take the MRI.”

Johnson said the “guess” of Nationals medical director Wiemi Douoguih is that there could be a small strain in the area.

“If that shows up positive, he’s probably going to be down for at least a week, maybe more,” Johnson said. “I certainly don’t want to think about anything over a week or 10 days. Just have to wait until I hear from that report (Tuesday night). I’ve got my fingers crossed.”

Zimmerman, who was a late scratch Saturday, hasn’t played since the Nationals’ victory over the Miami Marlins on Friday night. But Johnson said Zimmerman was dealing with soreness for at least three days before the Nationals scratched him from the lineup. It is unclear when he first hurt the shoulder, only that it happened on one of the many diving plays he’s made.

He stressed that he felt better Tuesday than he did Monday, and better Monday than he did Sunday. And he could easily participate in everything except hitting. When he would make contact, he said, he’d feel it.

“I couldn’t hit the way I wanted to hit,” Zimmerman said. “There’s no point to go out there and do something you can’t get rid of.”

Zimmerman said he and the training staff had not discussed if playing through it could cause further injury, but he was optimistic he would not need a stint on the disabled list.

“It if it was Sept. 15 and we were a game out, I’d tape my right side up and we’d go for it,” Zimmerman said. “But it’s April. If it takes however long it takes to get ready, a day, two days, whatever, and then I get six healthy months instead of playing at 80 percent for six months, (that) just wouldn’t make sense.”

Right now, the plan is for the team to re-evaluate him each day. Obviously, that could change if the results of the MRI reveal something more dire.

“With how much it’s gotten better the last couple days, it’s just going to be a matter of whenever I can hit without feeling it,” Zimmerman said. “It’s not going to be smart to try and go do something through that, to play with that stuff for so long. To take however many (days) it’s going to take to get better, that’s definitely the smart play.”

Losing Zimmerman, who signed a six-year, $100-million extension in February, for any extended period of time would be detrimental to an already anemic offense. Mark DeRosa, who is 3 for 30, was slotted into Zimmerman’s No. 3 spot in the lineup Tuesday night. With Michael Morse already out until at least June, Zimmerman’s bat — and his career .287/.354/.477 slash line — as well as his glove, are vital to the Nationals’ success.

“We missed him a lot last year,” Johnson said, referencing the nearly 60 games Zimmerman missed with an abdominal tear. “And we’re counting on him heavy this year. That’s why we’re probably being a little overcautious. He did hit, and he did throw well, but that’s not something we want to aggravate and make it longer.

“I’m already missing my four-hole hitter. I don’t need to miss my three-hole hitter.”

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