Nats holding out hope Garcia could be ready by opening day

VIERA, Fla. - The Nationals have a bit of a policy when it comes to pitchers working back from injuries: They need to rehab one day for every day that they were shut down.

Christian Garcia first felt discomfort in his right wrist/forearm during a bullpen session Feb. 17 and last threw on Feb. 21. He's been shut down ever since, after doctors determined that Garcia had a strained tendon in his forearm.

Manager Davey Johnson said that Garcia will be examined again in a couple of days by team medical director Dr. Wiemi Douoguih, and the Nationals hope that Dr. Douoguih will then clear Garcia to begin throwing again. Even if he does, however, that would leave Garcia needing to rehab for nearly three weeks, putting his chances of being ready for opening day in jeopardy.

Johnson is remaining optimistic, however.

"Conditioning-wise, he's fine, because he's been doing all that, but as far as throwing, he's back a ways," Johnson said. "But there's still plenty of time for him to be ready to open the year. We just have to wait and see."

Garcia was dominant as a reliever down the stretch last season, posting a 2.13 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings. The Nationals still intend to stretch Garcia out this spring, as they feel he can better utilize his fastball, curveball and changeup in multiple-inning stints.

The 27-year-old has been progressing the last couple of weeks, but the Nationals don't want to bring Garcia back too soon and then have him suffer any setbacks that could keep him out for a large chunk of the season.

"He's feeling better all the time," Johnson said. "He's champing at the bit, but they don't want there to be any soreness to the touch in the area. So I think Wiemi's coming back in a couple days to look at it again, and hopefully he'll take the wraps off."

Ryan Zimmerman is in the lineup as the Nationals' DH today, and that's likely where he'll stay for a little while longer.

Johnson said that he's going to continue to use Zimmerman as the DH for the time being (National League teams can use a DH until March 18), giving Zimmerman's shoulder more time to get built up and acclimated to the throw across the diamond.

Zimmerman had surgery this offseason to clean out the AC joint in his shoulder, which bothered him last season.

"I know he's coming along great, but I'm not in any hurry (to get him in a game at third)," Johnson said. "We have the DH in effect, and I'll DH him every day I can and just get him his at-bats."

Johnson said that Wilson Ramos will catch the entirety of Jordan Zimmermann's outing today, which should be four innings. This will be Ramos' second time behind the plate this spring after working back from a torn ACL and meniscus in his right knee suffered last May.

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