MRI on LaRoche comes back clean, Zimmerman almost ready to return

I've got good news to pass along on the Nationals' injured first and third basemen.

Adam LaRoche got an MRI on his sore right oblique today and it came back clean. The oblique is not torn, which let LaRoche breathe easy.

"Just a bruise, which is awesome news," LaRoche said. "I was worried about that."

LaRoche got treatment and hit today, probably at about 50-60 percent, he estimated. He will hit again tomorrow on the Nats' off day at closer to 100 percent force, and hopes to be able to return to the Nationals' lineup Tuesday against the Pirates.

"So far so good," he said. "The goal is Tuesday. Obviously, something could happen when I'm swinging harder. But I feel Tuesday is pretty realistic."

The biggest test, LaRoche said, will be to see how the oblique responds to him swinging at 100 percent. He needs to make sure it will hold up in a game before he can head back out there.

If LaRoche is able to return within a couple of days, the Nats caught a huge break. Oblique injuries can be tricky, and often keep players out for a matter of weeks, not days.

Ryan Zimmerman, meanwhile, took batting practice twice today, one in the cage and once on the field with his teammates. Like LaRoche, he will hit again tomorrow, and if all goes well, he'll play Tuesday.

When I asked Zimmerman whether he held back at all today, he shook his head.

"I was hitting," Zimmerman said. "It felt good. I was hitting the way I would hit in a game."

Zimmerman has been on the DL since April 28 (retroactive to April 21) with right shoulder inflammation.

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