Williams on Zimmerman rehab start, Harper and Gonzalez

Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, on the 15-day disabled list with a right thumb fracture, went to high Single-A Potomac on Friday night for a rehab game. Manager Matt Williams said Zimmerman will be the designated hitter.

"He has got to get some at-bats," Williams said. "He hasn't hit live. The field BP was great the other day. Did it again yesterday. Took some grounders at third yesterday. He took grounders at first the day before. Certainly been doing all the stuff in the outfield. Like we said, when the bone's healed, the bone's healed.

"The good thing is that he was able to do a lot of things even when it was still broken. It's not like he has to get back in running shape and all that. He has been doing it. It's a question of his timing and feeling good at the plate, seeing some live pitching. Is he close, yeah, I think he is close."

Williams said the Nats will play Zimmerman at different spots during his rehab games. He is the DH on Friday, but could also be placed in the outfield or at third or first base in the next few games. The Nationals need to see how he looks at different positions.

"It is important for him to play all over the place," Williams said. "Certainly, as we have discussed, there may be an opportunity to play in left, there may be an opportunity to play at third or first, depending on match-up and day and all that. The two places that he hasn't played a lot are first - he got some of that in spring training - and in a live situation in left. We'll get there.

"Tonight it is just DH, just to get him some at-bats. We will see how he feels with that. And if we have to do that again tomorrow we will do it again tomorrow. The good thing about Potomac is he can do that. He can get in there and DH and not have to play the field right now and get some at-bats. So we will see how it goes."

Williams would like to see him play left field and third base while at Potomac.

"That doesn't mean that's all he can do," Williams said. "He could play first, as well. So there may be games does a little bit of outfield, maybe comes back to third for a couple of innings, goes to first for a couple of innings. So he can get them all done. The key for him, though, is his timing at the plate."

Williams gave some interesting responses to listening to what a player says about his status coming back from an injury. Usually a player will say they are good to go. But Williams needs to see that on the field of play to confirm.

"I trust him," Williams said. "I trust the fact that what he is telling me is what he feels. If he says he feels good, I trust that. But there is opportunity for us to potentially put eyes on him with our off day, too."

"Players never tell you the truth, ever," Williams said. "So it is good to see him and see his timing at the plate. He doesn't take long to get ready. Generally, in spring training anyway, he is out of the chute hitting bullets everywhere. We want to make sure that its long term for the rest of the season."

The Potomac Nationals have a home game Monday night when the Nationals have the day off before the Phillies arrive. And if Zimmerman looks good through Monday, could the veteran third baseman be activated for the Phillies on Tuesday night?

"It's possible," Williams said. "That is awfully early, though. It's very early. That's just a few games being off that long, it's difficult. We will see how it looks."

Meanwhile, left fielder Bryce Harper was running the bases during early batting practice with a small blue wrap around his sprained left thumb.

"He is good," Williams said. "He is doing all the stuff that he can do currently. He is strengthening, very minor strengthening. You don't want to go to fast with that."

Left-hander Gio Gonzalez (left shoulder inflammation) got to throw Thursday and did well.

"Gio threw 35 pitches yesterday in the bullpen," Williams reported. "Came out of it feeling really good. Our plan would be to get him a simulated game on Sunday and then see how he comes out of that. Bullpen is always different than a simulated game, anyway. So if he feels good out of that, then we'll look at sending him on a rehab start."

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