Zimmerman leaves game with shoulder soreness; MRI pending

Ryan Zimmerman left tonight's 6-2 loss to the Braves with right shoulder soreness, manager Matt Williams said after the game.

Zimmerman was pulled from the game after the fifth inning, with Danny Espinosa replacing him in the fifth spot in the batting order and Anthony Rendon moving over to play third base.

Zimmerman has dealt with shoulder issues in recent seasons, and of late, he's been struggling with his throws across the diamond during pregame warmups. Williams said that it was one particular play tonight, however, that caused Zimmerman discomfort in the shoulder - his throwing error in the fourth inning that led to two unearned runs.

zimmerman-deep-thought-sidebar.jpg"He went to his backhand tonight, threw that ball across the infield and felt pain in his shoulder," Williams said. "So we thought it prudent to get him out of there and make sure everything's OK. He's got shoulder soreness.

"We want to make sure that he's 100 percent healthy. He had a little bit of a setback in spring training. He got through that, but tonight he felt it again. So we'll evaluate him tomorrow. He'll go see the doc."

The Nationals are trying to schedule Zimmerman for an MRI on the shoulder, which should reveal just how severe the issue is.

Zimmerman underwent surgery on the AC joint in his right shoulder after the 2012 season, and he dealt with the lingering effects of the procedure into the 2013 campaign. He made 14 errors through his first 66 games last season, but seemed to have turned the corner late in the year when the strength in his shoulder returned and allowed him to make strong, accurate throws across the diamond.

Williams said that with the exception of the "setback" in spring training, this was the first time Zimmerman had felt discomfort in the shoulder as of late.

"He was fine, but tonight, it's cold out there," Williams said. "In between innings, you don't necessarily get all the way loose, either, with the weather. He felt it, so we're just making sure."

The Nats know how hard Zimmerman had worked to try and put the shoulder issues behind him, and they know how important he is to their lineup. So they both feel for him and hold their breath as they await the results of this round of tests.

"It's just as hard for us as it is for him," Adam LaRoche said. "He's our captain on this team. He's a big piece of it, to say the least. To watch him go through that, it's frustrating. We're all behind him, do whatever we can to help him out. I know it's eating (at) him. That's a guy that's in that cage throwing, when nobody's around, all day long. Nobody wants it worse than he does. He's put the time in trying to find it.

"We need his glove, we need his bat in that lineup. If it happens, it happens. Hopefully, it's not too long. Early in the season, the most important thing is getting him healthy and getting him back out there. If he needs a few days or whatever it is, it's not the end of the world. We'll miss him, if in fact he's out for a little while."

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