Rachel Levitin: Zimmerman inches back toward D.C.

It's been a weird summer for baseball in Washington, D.C., without Ryan Zimmerman in the lineup. Without his consistent bat and Gold Glove performances daily, the Nationals have had to do the best with what they've got. That's all they can do under the circumstances.

On Sunday, the Nationals got a little closer to getting Zimmerman back. Zimmerman played for the Single-A Hagerstown Suns - his first time playing in a live game since April 9 - as part of a minor league rehabilitation assignment. It wasn't a bad day for the face of the franchise, either. He went 2-for-2 with a double, triple, walk and RBI while scoring two runs in a 6-5 Suns victory. Baseball aside, though, there's something about Zimmerman that should also be remembered.

Zimmerman stopped and signed autographs for fans. He did his franchise proud. He continues to assume the role of role model for baseball in Washington. His demeanor speaks for itself. He is a poised 26-year-old who means business on the field but also understands the importance of the job that needs to get done.

Zimmerman made it clear to media after yesterday's game that he will not return to the Washington roster until he's 100 percent healthy and the lesson he's learned from "all of this" is patience.

"As frustrating as it's been," he told media members, "I think it's helped me grow up a little bit as far as things that you go through that you've never gone through before. You gotta learn from them."

As much as Jayson Werth is a presence in the Nationals clubhouse, as are Livan Hernandez and Ivan Rodriguez, the leadership of Zimmerman has been missed on the field. I'm sure his presence elsewhere has been noticed by his teammates.

If anything, though, once Zimmerman returns to Washington, he's sure to bring a bit of that patience and knowledge from his experience with him. That insight will likely be valuable down the line either this year if a teammate finds themselves in a similar situation or in the future as Zimmerman matures into a veteran player.

Rachel Levitin blogs about the Nationals for We Love DC, and will be sharing her observations about baseball in the nation's capital this week as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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