Zimmerman’s absence will be tough to take

While it certainly hasn’t been easy considering the lack of power in their lineup, the Nationals have been able to scratch and claw their way to wins without cleanup hitter Michael Morse, who is currently shut down with a strained lat muscle.

They’ve made do without Drew Storen, who saved a whopping 43 games last season but is out until around the All-Star break because of elbow surgery.

But if they’re without Ryan Zimmerman for any extended period of time, the Nats might be in trouble.

Zimmerman underwent an MRI yesterday to determine the severity of a shoulder injury which continues to keep him out of the Nationals lineup, and manager Davey Johnson told reporters in San Diego last night that the early results don’t look good.

The Nats will know more today after the MRI is examined by team doctor Wiemi Douoguih, but at best, it appears Zimmerman will be out at least a few more days to allow the shoulder to heal. More likely, the All-Star third baseman will need to be put on the DL, which would leave the Nationals’ already struggling offense without its No. 3 hitter and one of its top run producers.

It’s been tough enough for the Nationals to score runs this season with Zimmerman in the lineup. Imagine what it’ll be like with a rotation of Mark DeRosa, Chad Tracy and Steve Lombardozzi taking over at third base and trying to fill Zimmerman’s offensive production.

Jayson Werth might have to move into the No. 3 hole, and DeRosa and Xavier Nady (who are hitting a combined .129) will likely need to move up in the order, as well. This Nats lineup, which already is being pieced together as best as possible, would need to break out the duct tape to try and hold itself upright.

There’s also Zimmerman’s defense to take into account. The 27-year-old had been playing his usual exceptional third base this season, diving all over the place - part of the reason why his shoulder is now bugging him - and doing his best to help keep the Nats’ starters putting up zeros. A DeRosa/Tracy/Lombardozzi combo would set the Nationals back defensively, as well.

Zimmerman’s durability has come into question in recent years, and this shoulder issue will give more material to those who feel he’s becoming a walking injury.

But more importantly, for at least the next handful of days (and possibly more), the National League-leading Nationals will be without the one position player they can’t afford to lose right now.

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