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Ryan Zimmerman set to return to Nationals, but in what role?

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Washington Nationals' 1B/3B/LF Ryan Zimmerman is set to return to the Nats today in time to get some at bats in before October. What role will Zimmerman play? Who cares, Zimmerman is back!

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

According to Ryan Zimmerman himself, it usually takes the soon-to-turn 30-year-old Washington Nationals' '05 1st Round pick about 40-50 at bats before he feels comfortable at the plate.

As Nats' skipper Matt Williams told reporters before the second game of four with the Miami Marlins last night, in the last few days of his rehab stint at the Nats' spring training facilities in Viera, Florida, Zimmerman has gotten in around 30 ABs, and he's ready to rejoin the Nationals for the first time since injuring his right hamstring running out a ground ball during a July 22nd game against the Colorado Rockies in Coors Field.

"He's had to play in the infield and outfield and go to the gap and chase down a ball and do all the things that he has to do anyway, so I think he's ready to go." -Matt Williams on Ryan Zimmerman's return

Zimmerman returned from a 44-game DL stint for a fractured right thumb suffered just ten games into the 2014 campaign in June and played 43 games before he suffered what Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo said was a Grade 3 strain of his hamstring in the 98th game of the season for the Nats.

When the Nationals take the field tomorrow it will be game no.154.

Zimmerman has worked hard to get back in time to help Washington as they head into the second postseason run in the last three years. Williams said yesterday he was finally ready to return.

"I think he's fine," the first-year manager told reporters in Marlins Park. "I think he's accomplished everything he needs to. He's gotten a lot of at bats."

"He's got 30 at bats or so-ish," Williams said after some quick calculations, "so that's good. And he's had to run down to first and try to beat a grounder. He's had to play in the infield and outfield and go to the gap and chase down a ball and do all the things that he has to do anyway, so I think he's ready to go."

The Nationals' three-hole hitter and third baseman for most of the last ten seasons, who's played left field and first base this summer as he's adjusted to a new role in the organization, was on the bench Friday night as the Nationals beat the Marlins 3-2 for their 89th win.

Williams said afterwards that he'd spoken to Zimmerman and Zimmerman said was ready.

"I talked to him. He said he felt okay. He's tired. He's a little bit sore, his body is sore from playing. But he's glad to be here and he feels like he's done everything. He's running at 85% or so he said, and hasn't pushed it really past that, but that's doable on the basepaths. So we'll see what tomorrow brings."

"I guess the good thing is he can play all three and if somebody needs a day then we can certainly put him in any of those. But I want to give him some at bats, it's important." -Williams on working Zimmerman back in

The plan, as much as Williams was willing to share it, is to get Zimmerman as many at bats as possible over the last nine games so that he's primed and ready to help wherever he's needed.

So, will he be back in the lineup right away?

"I'd like to get him in there," Williams said. "Depends on how everybody is feeling and what adjustments we may have to make. Again, we've got guys that are still nicked. Jayson [Werth] is a little nicked. We want to make sure that we are able to rest guys if we can and if they don't feel well then we want to do that, so we'll what tomorrow brings to us and make an adjustment from there."

What role will Zimmerman play? He struggled up returning from the DL in June, putting up a .212/.284/.337 line with 10 doubles and a home run in his first 27 games and 116 PAs upon coming back, but that was after he suffered a thumb injury which limited his ability to prepare before he was cleared to swing.

Before he suffered the hamstring injury, however, he started to hit for average again with a .362/.418/.569 line in 16 games in July over which he connected for six doubles and two home runs.

But where does he fit in? Anthony Rendon is firmly established at third. Adam LaRoche has hit six home runs this month after a two-run blast last night. Bryce Harper has turned a corner at the plate and is hitting home runs that remind everyone of the light tower power he possessed before his own thumb injury.

Williams said he will get Zimmerman in where he can.

"Right now I think that it's important for him to play some first base as we go, some left field as we go.

"He's only played three innings at third. He's going to come out for some early work tomorrow and do some grounder stuff, and get some more work in the infield as well, so I mean it just depends. I guess the good thing is he can play all three and if somebody needs a day then we can certainly put him in any of those. But I want to give him some at bats, it's important."

In the 53 games he's played and the 220 plate appearances he's made this season, in his 10th major league campaign, Zimmerman has put up a .282/345/.456 line with 19 doubles and five home runs.

Exactly how he'll be used is unclear, but postseason baseball in the nation's capital without the Face of the Franchise just wouldn't feel right and he could be back in the lineup as soon as tonight.