PITTSBURGH - After going without seeing live pitching for 13 days while sidelined with a strained left hamstring, Ryan Zimmerman made a one-day rehab appearance with high Single-A Potomac on Thursday, getting three at-bats and playing six innings in the field.
It wasn't a lengthy rehab assignment, by any means, but Zimmerman thinks he accomplished all he needed to during that one day with the P-Nats in order for him to be game ready tonight. He was activated off the disabled list this afternoon and will hit cleanup as the Nationals open a three-game set with the Pirates tonight.
"I hope so," Zimmerman said with a smile, when asked if the rehab stint was enough of a test. "Yeah, it's fine. It's not like I couldn't hit or do things for a long time. Obviously it was good to get into one game and see some pitches. But the hitting stuff has always been pretty quick for me. To be able to keep throwing and taking ground balls and to only miss really three days of doing nothing made it a lot easier to come back quicker."
The things that Zimmerman really wanted to test during his rehab assignment were all of the quick-action game movements that can't be replicated when going through drills at 85 percent speed. Zimmerman sprinted down the line on two ground balls and fielded a ball on the run, all without any issues.
Zimmerman was sending sharply hit line drives all over PNC Park during batting practice, and as far as the Nationals are concerned, he's completely ready to go.
"I've gotten nothing but glowing reports," Johnson said. "He's been running good, throwing good, feeling, hitting good. You see him move around and he looks like he's feeling a lot better."
Johnson will surely be watching how Zimmerman's hamstring takes to his return to big league action, but he'll also likely keep an eye on Zimmerman's throwing motion, given the third baseman's defensive issues just before he went on the DL.
Zimmerman made four throwing errors in a five-game span leading up to his placement on the DL, and he was concerned enough with the results that he asked teammates whether they were noticing anything wrong with his mechanics.
While he was sidelined the last two weeks, Zimmerman was able to keep his arm fresh by throwing across the diamond, which should help for what he hopes is a smooth transition back to game action.
"I don't know if I worked on it. I just kept throwing," Zimmerman said. "I was able to keep my arm in shape and take ground balls, so that was nice. Obviously if I would have had to take 10-15 days off of throwing and fielding ground balls, then you're talking about how I'm not able to come back right away because I have to get my arm in shape and be able to get my legs in shape. But I literally took those 2-3 days off and then took ground balls and all that, so that was good."
Zimmerman played a full 162-game season back in 2007, but since then, he's only topped 145 games once. A string of injuries, most suffered in the season's first month, have knocked Zimmerman to the DL in recent seasons.
In 2011, Zimmerman played the season's first eight games before needing abdominal surgery, which knocked him out for more than two months. Last season, it was inflammation in the A/C joint in Zimmerman's right shoulder that put him on the DL midway through April, causing him to miss 13 games. This year, the hamstring caused another early-season DL stint.
Some might wonder if Zimmerman is starting to become injury prone or needs to tweak his workout routine leading up to the start of the season. Zimmerman just chalks up the injuries to the nature of the business.
"There's nothing you can really do," Zimmerman said. "My body has felt great every single year. I've done the same thing in the offseason that I've done in the past. It's just a matter of playing games. I think the more games you play, unfortunately the more apt you are to get hurt. That's just kind of how it is in any sport. That's why the guys who play 155-160 games every year for 10, 12, 15 years are so incredible. I don't think people understand or give them enough credit for doing things like that. It's part of it.
"Unfortunately, the last three years or so, it's kind of got me a little bit. Hopefully after this, for the next 8-10 years, however long I play, hopefully we won't have to talk about it. ... I've been the same weight for five years. I've done literally the same offseason program, I started hitting and throwing the same exact time I always have. It's just something that happens, part of sports."