Nationals manager Matt Williams backed off his comment during an interview on 106.7 The Fan on Monday night that third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was dealing with an "arthritic" right shoulder, but Zimmerman spent part of early workouts before Tuesday's game trying to get used to a new throwing motion from a three-quarters arm slot designed to alleviate some of the pressure on the joint.
"I think it's a question of semantics - degenerative as opposed to arthritic," Williams said in his briefing with reporters before the Nats opened a three-game home series against the Marlins. "We all know he's had some issues in there. The word arthritic, I don't think, should be taken literally. ... It's a question of me saying the wrong word."
An MRI performed over the weekend showed no structural damage in Zimmerman's right shoulder.
Asked if his shoulder was arthritic, Zimmerman said: "Everyone in this room is arthritic. ... Is it probably arthritic? Is there some things wrong in there? Probably, yeah. But when you play this game for as long as everyone in here has, and you do the same thing as much as we've done ... Is it the truth? Probably, yeah. But I don't think it's an arthritic shoulder to the point where I need to take medication like you see in those commercials. The MRI didn't show anything different than what we've seen in the past."
Zimmerman said he made it through Tuesday's drills employing the new throwing motion with no problems, and said he would be ready to play Wednesday if he has no pain or discomfort tomorrow morning. So far, he's only taking anti-inflammatory medication and hasn't entertained any thoughts of a cortisone injection, the treatment which helped him when right shoulder issues flared up during the 2012 season.
"If it doesn't hurt tomorrow, there's no reason to put another one of those in there," Zimmerman said.
Because the Nationals have been playing primarily in cold weather since returning from spring training in Viera, Fla., Zimmerman is hoping warming temperatures forecast for later this week will help the shoulder feel better. But he's also going to focus on trying the three-quarters throwing delivery to take some pressure off the shoulder.
"We're going to try to do whatever it takes to make it feel better and, more importantly, make me feel more productive," he said. "And I think that's the most important thing. I don't want to hurt the team, and obviously, being able to make plays is a big part of the game. It's going to help us win games, which is the ultimate goal. ... In order to be out there and help them win, I've got to make plays."
Williams thinks the new throwing motion will help accomplish those goals.
"We're just trying to take a little pressure off of it, get him a different slot so he feels comfortable working through any soreness he may have," Williams said. "It's a little less stressful on his arm to be down there. It's a question of him getting used to it, too, on a routine play where the ball's hit right to him and he's got time to throw it across."
For at least one day, the departure from the over-the-top arm slot paid dividends.
"Today, he reported (no discomfort) doing that," Williams said.
If Zimmerman continues to have problems with the shoulder, the Nats will have to be creative working him into the lineup. Zimmerman can serve as a designated hitter during interleague games, Williams said, but with Adam LaRoche entrenched at first base, Williams would need to start switching around infielders to accommodate a move of Zimmerman to first base.
"If he feels fine, he's going to play third. ... He's pretty darn good at it," Williams said. "If he continues to feel fine, then that's where he'll be. If we have to make adjustments, then we'll do that. But we don't know that yet."
Zimmerman is at least encouraged that he's feeling no discomfort while swinging a bat. Previously, he said, he experienced problems while hitting but not while fielding.