Nationals manager Matt Williams had another positive update on the status of third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who has been out with a right thumb fracture. Zimmerman went through batting practice Wednesday and even had former Nationals pitcher Livan Hernandez throwing to him.
"Today is a stepping stone for him," Williams said. "He got on the field for live BP. Took a lot of swings. He also took grounders today. That is a big step. We will see how he feels tomorrow. And what his body feels like. He hasn't done that extensive work yet. He has done some stuff in the outfield. Some conditioning stuff, some soft toss. But today was a big step for him."
Williams said the session got closer to what a game would feel like for Zimmerman.
"Live BP, you generate it a little bit more," Williams said. "Your muscles can get sore. Certainly taking grounders, which he hasn't done, can make sure sore. So we will see how he is tomorrow. Anticipate some soreness though."
Zimmerman was pleased with the way the he felt taking swings and fielding grounders during batting practice.
"Felt good," Zimmerman said. "I think you got to do that for a few days to get in shape and make sure that you can go out and take BP every day and do your work without getting tired or without doing something to your back or your oblique. That is kind of the point of these last two days and the next couple of days. We will kind of reassess it and go from there."
Can Zimmerman feel the thumb when he swings?
"You can feel a little bit, but not to the point where I can't do what I want to do," Zimmerman said. "It is going to be stiff and it is going to be sore a little bit. That is just how it is."
Williams said Zimmerman's injury does not affect his power as much as the hamate bone fracture did to the strength in catcher Wilson Ramos' hand.
"It is a little different situation than say Wilson, where it involves the hand and wrist," Williams said. "It is his thumb. Being his top hand it's really not involved as much as say somebody coming off a hamate and the lack of strength there. I anticipate the strength to be there. From what I saw today when I was out there, his timing is a little off, so he is going to have to have some at-bats for that for sure.
"Power should be fine. When he is on time he was hitting the ball the other way fine. No complaints about any pain. Livo threw him a couple of curveballs to get a look at those. He hit one off the end of the bat and he had no problem with it as far as any vibration pain. I think all that is positive. That is a really good sign. He threw the ball in the infield fine, complained of nothing. So that is a good sign too."
Zimmerman was also able to long toss and that also felt good. He will test the arm even more the next couple of days.
"That is the plan," Zimmerman said. "You keep going back a little bit. I threw to about 120 (feet), probably get to about 150 which is really all you need to be able to do it on a consistent basis and get it back in shape so it is not going through a bunch of soreness once I am back playing. I think that is kind of the goal."
Zimmerman likened the feeling he gets from his swing to the first few days in Viera, Fla., in February.
"It is just like when you first come to spring training basically is what it feels like," Zimmerman said. "The first two or three days you swing you will be sore. From there it usually starts to taper down and wear off to the point where you are going to be sore off an on throughout the whole year. All these guys are, I am sure. But you don't want to be sore like you are the first couple days you start swinging."
Williams reiterated there is no need to hurry Zimmerman up in this process because the top goal is to get the veteran third baseman back for the long haul and not just a few games.
"What we don't want is a set back," Williams said. "Can you imagine pushing him too fast and having him go out on a rehab assignment and pulling a muscle. That is what we don't want. When we get him back we want him back for the rest of the season. So we are not going to push him too hard in that regard. He'll let us know what he feels like. But we don't plan on saying got to go now and go get at-bats because we want him back 100 percent for the rest of the way. It's a tricky one, because you want him back too."
Williams said getting Zimmerman back in game shape is top priority. And that starts by building strength in the arm that was not used as much while the thumb healed.
"I would think so, yeah," Williams said. "Certainly throwing, given the shoulder and given the thumb. Strength there is a concern. He has been lifting and he has been running. You guys have seen him for the last three weeks out the outfield running around and chasing balls and doing stuff that he would be during the course of a game potentially. So I don't think that is an issue.
"The swinging and the grounders are an issue because he hasn't been able to do that. That will create soreness, just like regular spring training. They get sore, so we have to work him through that and make sure he is ready to go when he starts playing rehab games. So that is a concern for us. We have to monitor that closely."