Zimmermann getting critical rest as the All-Star break commences

Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann avoided the 15-day disabled list after a MRI revealed only a right biceps strain. It was very good news for a Nationals starting rotation which has weathered a couple of storms early this season to be one of the most dominant staffs in the major leagues.

Right-hander Doug Fister (lat strain) missed a great deal of the beginning of the season and recovered to post an 8-2 record with a 2.90 ERA in 12 starts. There is really no way to understate Fister’s contribution to the Nationals so far this season. The last two seasons, Edwin Jackson and Dan Haren combined for nine wins before the All-Star break, but Fister has already racked up eight wins in limited duty.

Left-hander Gio Gonzalez (shoulder inflammation) was placed on the DL early in the season. Prior to a July 10 setback against the Orioles, Gonzalez had won three straight decisions. He is 6-5 with a 3.56 ERA in 14 starts this season.

So it is not being too dramatic in saying that finding out Zimmermann was not seriously injured after leaving in the fourth inning of Friday’s 6-2 loss to the Phillies is arguably the best news heading into the All-Star break.

The other important statement here is Zimmermann did not officially go on the DL, but now he will not attend the All-Star Game or its festivities, and instead head home to Auburndale, Wis., for the break. He is essentially getting the same rest he would have had if he indeed was placed on the DL.

Call it the 11-day disabled list, Nationals style.

Zimmermann will return to the team Thursday when the Nationals have their first official practice after the All-Star break as the team prepares for a matchup with the first-place Milwaukee Brewers. Team doctors will assess Zimmermann’s progress and how his biceps are feeling in deciding when he will pitch again.

Manager Matt Williams confirmed after Sunday’s 10-3 win over the Phillies that Stephen Strasburg, Gonzalez and Fister will get the three starts against the Brewers over the weekend. Then, when the team heads to Denver for a series with the Rockies, Tanner Roark could start Monday’s game and then Zimmermann would pitch on Tuesday night.

That is a full 11 days, and a little bit more time because he came out after four innings (and only 53 pitches) against the Phillies. So, it’s not a disabled list situation and no player movement had to occur, but its a close as you can get.

This way he will have the most rest possible, will get to spend time with his family, and bring a rested right biceps back to Washington on Thursday.

Now the Nationals will attempt to get their pitching, resurgent offense and close-to-mistake-free defense in line again to start the second half and pick up were they left off.

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