Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse for the injury-plagued Washington Nationals, the news out of Atlanta's Turner Field tonight is that Nats' third baseman Ryan Zimmerman suffered a fractured right thumb trying to get back into second on a pickoff play by Braves' lefty Alex Wood.
Zimmerman doubled to right off Wood with one on and one out in the top of the fifth inning tonight, moving Anthony Rendon to third after the Nats' 23-year-old infielder walked in his third trip to the plate after homering and singling in his two previous at bats. Adam LaRoche stepped in against the Braves' 23-year-old lefty who spun quickly before delivering a 2-2 pitch, throwing to second and catching Zimmerman off guard with a timing play on which shortstop Andrelton Simmons was able to sneak in behind Zimmerman and apply the tag.
After he was punched out, Zimmerman looked up for a moment, wondering about the call, then immediately went to his knees and inspected his finger, which was clearly an issue.
The Nats' 29-year-old third baseman left the game there, replaced defensively by Rendon, who shifted over to third base while Danny Espinosa came off the bench to play second.
Adam LaRoche K'd swinging on the next pitch to end the threat in what was then a 4-1 game, but the real blow for the Nationals, who have already lost Doug Fister (right lat strain), Wilson Ramos (hamate bone surgery) and today Denard Span (concussion, 7-Day DL) to injury was that Zimmerman apparently fractured his right thumb on the play:
Ryan Zimmerman fractured right thumb. Out four to six weeks.— James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) April 13, 2014
#Nats Manager Matt Williams said 3B Ryan Zimmerman left tonight's game with a fractured right thumb. Expected to be out 4-6 weeks.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) April 13, 2014
"Be out four-to-six weeks," Matt Williams told reporters after the game, though he wouldn't confirm what will be done to replace Zimmerman on the roster.
"We don't know yet, we'll have to make that decision tonight," he said.
"It is what it is," the Nats' first-year skipper said when asked about all the injuries the Nationals have dealt with already this season. "Nobody is going to feel sorry for us, so we've got to play."
Williams said he thought Zimmerman injured the thumb when it hit the second base bag.
"The ball took Andrelton away a little bit, and he kind of lunged after the ball and fell on Zim," Williams said, "but from what I've seen and again I'll have to look at it, but I think he did it on the bag. So, unfortunate, but we've got to step forward from here."
Zimmerman missed some time last week with a recurrence of the shoulder issues which were supposed to be resolved by surgery to clean out, "an arthritic section of bone," in the AC joint in his right shoulder following a rough 2012 season in which he received four cortisone shots in order to stay on the field.
The Nationals' '05 1st Round pick made a tough backhand play and throw during last Saturday night's game with the Braves. He left the game two innings later, but a subsequent MRI revealed only inflammation and no structural damage, so he returned to the lineup this week with altered his throwing mechanics, dropping to more of a 3/4 arm slot when possible in an attempt to avoid any further discomfort.
Through nine games this season and two at bats tonight before injury, Zimmerman was 11 for 33 with two doubles and two home runs so far in his 10th major league season.
The "Face of the Nationals Franchise" signed a 6-year/$100M extension in 2012 which kicked in this season and pays him $14M a year from 2014-18 and $18M in 2019 with a club option for 2020 at the same salary or a $2M buyout.
Nationals.com writer Bill Ladson wrote on Twitter tonight that he heard 24-year-old infielder Zach Walters would likely get the call to replace Zimmerman on the roster a day after the Nationals brought outfielder Steven Souza, Jr. and right-hander Blake Treinen up from Triple-A Syracuse to help out in the outfield and bullpen:
Syracuse Chiefs' radio announcer Jason Benetti reported on Twitter after the injury, but before any announcement on Zimmerman was made, that Walters was pulled from a game with the Chiefs after five innings:
No official word on Zimmerman's replacement yet, but the news out of Atlanta tonight is that the Nationals will be without their starting third baseman for four-to-six weeks.