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Nationals' 1B Ryan Zimmerman returning from DL ready for stretch run...

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Will Ryan Zimmerman be better off for the time away? He told reporters on Sunday that his timing was fine during his minor league rehab games. Will Zimmerman pick it up as the Washington Nationals head down the stretch after a rough start at the plate?

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In the game before he landed on the 15-Day DL with a left rib cage strain back in the first week of July, the 31-year-old first baseman Ryan Zimmerman went 2 for 3 with a home run and a walk.

The two-hit day left the veteran infielder with a .221/.284/.402 line, 13 doubles and 12 home runs over 313 plate appearances this season.

"That was big and he needed it and we needed it," Baker said of the two-run home run that gave Washington a 5-4 lead in what ended up a 7-4 win.

"I've seen guys that were cold when they left that were hot when they come back," Baker explained, "because they cleared their head..." -Dusty Baker on Ryan Zimmerman returning from DL

"We're certainly looking forward to what's to come from Zimmerman," he added.

Two days later, Zimmerman went on the Disabled List, retroactive to July 7th.

"Any time you get hurt it’s obviously frustrating," Zimmerman told reporters once his DL stint was announced.

"But it happens and the important thing now is to just kind of get it better and if it were to happen we had the All-Star Break to kind of put in the middle of it and just get healthy and be ready to come back and finish strong in the second half."

Dusty Baker talked before Zimmerman went out for rehab games last week about what he expected from his first baseman once he was back in the majors, and how the time off could help.

"I've seen guys that were cold when they left that were hot when they come back," Baker explained, "because they cleared their head, they get to watch other guys -- like I urge our guys, just like I told Sammy [Solis] yesterday, you play the game in your mind, 'What would you throw right here. What would you throw in this situation for a double play or you need a strikeout and I urged Zim to do the same thing. 'Imagine yourself at the plate,' and the mind is a wonderful thing.

"You have to sometimes play it in your mind before you get out there, but once you get out there and you're kind of struggling in the middle, then your mind starts playing tricks on you, so I think this gave him great time to get his thoughts together and watch some video and at the same time he's probably in better shape now than when he left."

"Time is a wonderful thing if you use it right," Baker concluded.

Zimmerman started a rehab stint on July 21st and went 5 for 12 with a double, a three-run home run and five RBIs in three games for the Potomac Nationals.

He talked to reporters on Sunday about returning from the DL stint for the start of the two-game set in Cleveland that begins tonight.

"Feel good," Zimmerman said. "I didn't take that much time off, but it was good to get down there and get some at bats and be ready to come back and help this team kind of in the second half and get going."

Asked how his timing was, Zimmerman said, "Pretty good. Had some success. Faced some pretty good pitchers actually. But everything feels good."

"I think I'm good to go. I think Dusty has really done a good job this year of kind of mixing and matching days off for some of the guys, but when I come back I would be ready to go."