Ryan Zimmerman returning to his natural throwing motion

VIERA, Fla. - The days of the robotic throwing motion are over. No longer will Ryan Zimmerman need a seemingly 12-step process to get the ball from his glove to the first baseman.

And boy, are Zimmerman and those around him happy about it.

Zimmerman had arthroscopic surgery on the AC joint in his right shoulder early this offseason, a procedure that should allow him to return to his natural throwing motion and make his awkward, rigid tosses thing of the past.

The Nationals third baseman isn't at full strength just yet, instead limited to hitting off of light tosses flipped at him and taking part in throwing sessions that stretch out to 75 feet. But he already notices a difference in his shoulder's strength and informed manager Davey Johnson during a recent conversation that he'll be back to his old throwing motion.

Johnson's reaction: "Halleluiah." The Nats skipper also told reporters just a bit ago that Zimmerman's update was "the best news I've had this spring."

Zimmerman, who reported to camp yesterday but was back today for his first workout of spring, had 12 throwing errors last season, many as a result of the issue with the AC joint in his shoulder. The Nationals' training staff patched together the shoulder as best as possible in order to keep Zimmerman on the field, but the situation was less than ideal.

"We did anything and everything last year to kind of duct tape the problem," Zimmerman explained. "We did a good job. To get back to free, natural, the way everyone else throws a baseball, is the goal. That will kind of let me get back to what I was.

"We went through some things last year. They did a good job of getting me healthy enough to contribute. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't work, and it was frustrating for everyone involved, I think, myself included. Those are the things you do. The team we had last year and the way that we were playing, there was no way that I wasn't going to play.

"Obviously, sometimes it didn't look so good. It was probably the first time I ever felt uncomfortable on a baseball field at any time. But we battled through it. The training staff and all those guys did a great job helping me get through. Having that in the past and being able to work now, kind of starting fresh, it's refreshing."

Zimmerman had several cortisone shots throughout the course of last season, shots which got rid of the inflammation and sapped the discomfort that Zimmerman felt in his shoulder but didn't do anything to actually heal the joint.

The 28-year-old played 145 games last season, but even when he was producing offensively the way he'd like to, he didn't truly feel like himself.

"Before the shot, it was the hitting. I had no power, no nothing," Zimmerman said. "The shot finally did that. The frustrating part was, I couldn't feel pain. I couldn't function like I wanted to. My brain was telling me to do something, but obviously I couldn't do it physically.

"That was the most frustrating part, because nothing hurt. So when you guys would ask me if it hurt, I'd say, 'No.' You guys probably thought, 'Why are you so bad?' But we made it through."

Zimmerman has been working back into playing shape for about three weeks now, but he still needs a good bit of time before he'll be game-ready. There isn't any rush to get him back in action, however, which is why Zimmerman will likely miss at least a handful of spring training games before he sees the field.

"I can probably promise you I won't be playing Feb. 23," he said with a smile. "But I will be ready. I get 50 at-bats, that's pretty much what I do in spring. There's no reason that I won't get that - a normal spring training - and be ready to go April 1."

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