Zimmerman refutes that calf injury slowed return (Nats win 5-4)

NEW YORK - Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman sat down during pregame and refuted claims that his calf has been the biggest reason why he has been slow in his recovery from his right oblique strain that has kept him on the disabled list since May 10.

“I don’t know, I don’t have social media, so I’m not up into this stuff, but do I have soreness sometimes? Yes, of course. Am I injured? Absolutely not,” he said. “Same thing with spring training. Was I injured? Absolutely not. Was I sore? Yes. Did we take it easy? Yeah. Were we smart? Yeah. So I wish I had something for you. But I don’t. I don’t know.”

Jon Heyman for Fancred Sports reported that Zimmerman missed all of spring training because of the calf injury. Zimmerman said that was not true. It was soreness, but not an injury that kept him off the field.

But what was interesting about Zimmerman’s comments is this was the first time he had admitted that the calf was an issue at all.

“In spring training, everyone talked about calves and all that stuff, and I had soreness, like I told you guys. I had soreness,” Zimmerman said. “In spring, I had calf soreness, along with other soreness, and we were safe with it. I think we did the ultrasound to make sure nothing was hurt and it wasn’t, so we took our time, and because we took our time, like I’ve told you before, we didn’t have enough time for me to get at-bats, so that was the reason why I was going to the back fields.”

Zimmerman fast forwarded to his current situation and said the focus has been the oblique and soreness that has not subsided as fast as he had hoped.

Ryan Zimmerman homer gray henley.jpg“The calf stuff with this, I don’t know where it’s coming from. You know, the oblique is taking longer than we thought, I think,” he said. “When it first happened, we thought it would be a little bit quicker. I think because it’s taken so long - running at first was like it bothered the oblique, so I couldn’t run, so when you go that long without running, with the history, that I’ve had with hamstrings and calves and pretty much lower body injury if you want to go hockey-style with it - basically in 13 years, we’ve just been careful with it, we’ve been safe with it.”

Zimmerman acknowledged there were some setbacks in his recovery from the oblique problem. That is the main reason May 10 dragged to June 10 and now to July 12. Running was the key element that affected this quicker recovery. Once running became an issue, the Nationals had to start over with the rehab plan.

“At the very beginning,” Zimmerman said. “Just full (running), and then turning and doing any of that was bothering it at the beginning, so obviously we couldn’t do it, cause anything that makes it symptomatic, you have to stop because if you just keep aggravating it, it will never get better. So at the beginning, yes, running did hurt it. Throwing hurt at the beginning, so I couldn’t do any of that. But now recently it’s starting to get better and then just have to build back up. I can’t go from not being able to run for four weeks to right into it, or we’ll be talking about what we were talking about in spring training again.”

But over the last week, Zimmerman has seen a big improvement in how his body feels while he’s running on the field. He said he will return for the Braves series to begin the second half of the season.

“I’m starting to ramp up my running now,” he said. “I everything continues to go well in the next couple days, I’m going to go play during the break and be ready for Friday after the break.”

Zimmerman demonstrated that today with three-quarter speed sprinting in left field during batting practice, and then ran sprints from second base to third base and finally first base to third base.

Manager Davey Martinez confirmed that Zimmerman looks good in his recovery and that Friday, July 20 is the target date for his return. The skipper said he expects Zimmerman to go on a minor league rehab assignment early next week to prepare for a Friday return.

With the team back to the .500 mark at 46-46, and going through a stretch where they have won only 13 of 36 games, is Zimmerman more frustrated because he has not been able to return at a faster pace so he can help the team get on a positive streak? Zimmerman said it’s frustrating just not being able to play baseball.

“It’s frustrating. If we went 20-0 in the last 20 games and I can’t play, it would be frustrating,” Zimmerman said. “We’re here because we like to compete, we like to be out there. So, yeah, being hurt, it’s always frustrating I think. Last year, being able to play the whole year and do what I know I’m capable of doing compared to the years before, to finally have that, and this year to have something like that happen again, it’s tough. But you’ve got to stay positive.

“As bad as we’ve played and as many injuries as we’ve had, we’re not out of it. So I think you’ve got to look at the positive. Hopefully, we can finish strong.”

Update: Anthony Rendon hit two homers, a two-run shot in the first and a solo shot in the third, propelling the Nats to an early lead against Steven Matz. The two homers mark the fourth multi-homer game of Rendon’s career. He now has 15 homers on the season.

Max Scherzer allowed an RBI single to José Bautista in the bottom of the first.

Mid-third, the Nats lead the Mets 3-1.

Update II: Bautista is seeing Scherzer well. His solo homer to left-center field in the fourth cut into the Nats lead. Juan Soto has two singles for the Nats.

Mid-fifth, the Nats lead the Mets 3-2.

Update III: Bryce Harper blasted a two-run moonshot in the seventh off of former Nats reliever Jerry Blevins. It was his 23rd homer of the season.

Mid-seventh, the Nats lead 5-2.

Update IV: Kevin Plawecki hit a line drive home run with two outs off of Scherzer in the bottom of the seventh. It was his second homer of the season.

After seven, the Nats lead the Mets 5-3.

Update V: Scherzer went seven innings, allowed three runs on five hits (two homers) with two walks and five strikeouts. He threw 101 pitches, 73 for strikes.

Mid-eighth, the Nats lead the Mets 5-3.

Update VI: With one out in the eighth, Asdrúbal Cabrera with a solo homer off of Kelvin Herrera. After two walks, Herrera recorded a popup to first base and a strikeout to get out of a dangerous situation.

After eight innings, the Nats are clinging to a 5-4 lead.

Update VII: In the ninth, Ryan Madson allowed a leadoff single to Plawecki. Jose Reyes’ fielder’s choice grounder to Trea Turner at second base got Plawecki out. Pinch-hitter Amed Rosario grounded out to a 6-3 double play to end the game. Madson recorded his fourth save.

Final score: Nats 5, Mets 4.

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