As of last night, the Washington Nationals were waiting on the results of an MRI to see if there was any damage to Ryan Zimmerman's surgically-repaired right shoulder after he felt soreness in it on an errant throw. There was no pregame press conference before Sunday's series finale with the Nats' NL East rivals from Atlanta, so there was no word before the game, but the Nats' 29-year-old third baseman made a pinch hit appearance late in this afternoon's 2-1 win over the Braves and after the game, Manager Matt Williams told reporters there was no structural damage in his shoulder.
"He's got some inflammation in his shoulder," Williams said. "So we gave him today and tomorrow. We're going to reevaluate on Tuesday. The MRI showed no structural issues but there's some inflammation there, so we're going to look at that certainly on Tuesday and see how he feels. But as of right now he's got today and tomorrow off."
Asked if he had any concerns about using Zimmerman in the pinch hit appearance, the first-year skipper said, "No," explaining that the Nationals' '05 1st Round pick only experienced pain when throwing the ball.
"Swinging is fine," he said. "The issue he's got is probably throwing overload. He throws a lot and he works at it really hard. So it may be a little overload at this point, but no qualms about that, no."
Williams wasn't willing to consider the possibility of Zimmerman perhaps filling a bench role if any further issues were revealed. "I think we do what we have to do," he said, "but I envision him playing third base, so that's the plan. But of course you have to look at things and adjust if need be. But as of right now, as soon as he feels good then he'll be back at third."
The problem, Williams said, is possibly one of throwing "overload."
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"It's a little bit of overload," he explained. "So we have to curtail that just a touch to make sure that he feels good. What does that involve? Maybe it doesn't involve as many throws. Maybe it's cutting down the amount of grounders he takes in pre-game. I know that he likes to go down -- especially when it's cold, into the cage and throw. Maybe it's an adjustment to that too. So, I talked with him today, we're going to look at it again on Tuesday. Again, we can't curtail it right now, because we have to make sure he's good to go and he feels good."
Williams also reiterated what he said last night about the issue not coming up before Saturday's game, at least since Zimmerman felt some soreness in Spring Training.
"He worked hard, threw a lot, just as much as everybody else," Williams said today. "He had a little bit of setback in spring where he got sore, so you never know. The ball the other night, he had to go kind of back and to his right and then try to get that ball over to first base and felt it on that throw. So, is it a question of that throw? Or is it a question of him doing a lot and then showing up at this point? I don't know if there's an answer to that one. But it's there and it's sore and we'll have to adjust."
The adjustments today involved moving Anthony Rendon over to third and playing Danny Espinosa at second, but Williams was clear that if healthy, Zimmerman will play third.
"What we need to do is make sure he's good. So we'll take the appropriate steps to make sure it's good. And once it does, then he's going to play third for us. So, until that time. There may be some adjustment within there. But I don't anticipate that being a long time."
Rendon led off and played third today, and scored one of the two runs the Nationals pushed across against Braves' lefty Alex Wood. He bunted his way on and scored on an error. The bunt, Williams said, was the 23-year-old infielder's own idea.
"It's him having a look down there at third base and actually executing it," Williams said. "It's one thing to show it, but it's another thing to actually execute it. Chris [Johnson] is a good third baseman. He charges the ball well, he's got a great arm, all of that stuff over there. So he had to make a really good bunt and he did."
Williams, of course, worked with Rendon in his one previous managing gig before he was named the Nationals' skipper in the Arizona Fall League and he said today he's seen improvement already in the 2011 1st Round pick's game.
"He's got lightning-quick hands and has the ability to hit the ball to all parts of the ballpark. I think he's played really well at second and he's got the ability to play third. He's done really well."
His ability to play third will help if Zimmerman ends up missing significant time, but as of now, Williams doesn't seem to think that will be the case.
We talked about Ryan Zimmerman, today's win over the Braves and more this afternoon on Nats Nightly. Check out the latest episode below: