Zimmerman, who was hitting .364 with two home runs and six RBIs in his first 10 games, will be lost for four to six weeks with a fractured right thumb. He suffered the injury Saturday night, diving back to second base on a pickoff throw where he was tagged out by Atlanta shortstop Andrelton Simmons.
"I probably have more hits this April than I've had my whole career," Zimmerman said Sunday morning after being placed on the 15-day disabled list. "It's frustrating to finally get off to a good start. The team was playing well, even with the injuries we've already had. To add more injuries, it's frustrating. But that's part of the game, part of sports. There's nothing you can do about it, so no reason to sit here and pout. It's just something that happens. Hopefully by the end, it will make us stronger."
Zimmerman is the latest in a series of early-season injuries that have tested the Nats' mettle. Catcher Wilson Ramos (broken hamate bone), pitcher Doug Fister (lat strain), and outfielders Scott Hairston (left oblique strain) and Denard Span (concussion) are also on the DL.
The third baseman labeled the injury a "freak accident."
"I thought just my nail had bent back, because the nail was black and blue and bleeding, like when you catch it on something," he said. "But it was the whole thumb that was bent back, not just the nail. It stinks, but it happens. It was just a freak accident. There's nothing you can really do. Hopefully we'll get all this stuff out of the way and everybody will be healthy for the rest of the year."
Zimmerman will see a hand specialist in Baltimore on Monday, but it appears as if he won't need surgery on the thumb. Now he just has to wait for the fracture to heal.
"I don't know the results of all the tests to talk confidently enough to tell you guys, but you just rest and let it heal," he explained. "There's really nothing you can do for a bone to speed it up."
When asked if he was unlucky, Zimmerman admitted he's had some bad fortune over the course of his career. But he said it's not like he or Ramos could have done anything to prevent their injuries.
"I can't do thumb exercises in the offseason to strengthen my thumb," Zimmerman said. "Willy can't do hamate exercises. It's tough. We all work so hard in the offseason to get ready to play and prepare ourselves to play 160-something games. To not be able to play because of something like this, or what Willy has, it's frustrating."
Span, who has a history of concussion problems, understands why the Nationals chose to take the conservative route and placed him ont the seven-day DL after his collision Friday night with Braves second baseman Dan Uggla.
"If I had to play today, I could play," Span said. "But I understand with my history it was best for me to go on the seven-day DL and be safe. "Go ahead and think about the rest of the season and the rest of my life."
Span, then with the Twins, was limited to 70 games in the 2011 season with concussion issues after a home plate collision with Royals catcher Brayan Pena while trying to stretch a triple into an inside-the-park home run. Span first went on the seven-day concussion DL, moved to the 15-day disabled list and progressed to a minor league rehabilitation assignment. He was reinstated to the active roster, but went 2-for-35 before returning to the DL with migraines, and played only five games after being activated in late September.
The collision in Friday's game was a surprise to Span, who thought Uggla was late at picking him up in the base line as he moved from first toward second base.
"Even with us colliding, I didn't think it was going to be an impact like that," Span said. "I thought maybe we would have been able to kind of brace each other. It's crazy, this game - you never know what's going to happen."
Span said Uggla's shoulder or forearm made contact with his neck, and he suspects the soreness in his thigh came from being kneed in the collision.
"I just feel like I got hit by a little running back," Span said.
Span knew he'd been shaken up, but experienced pain in his head a couple of innings later, and some fogginess after the game. He hasn't performed any baseball activities the past two days, but hopes to take batting practice Monday in Miami and proceed from there.
"I'm going to be a little more smarter this time and use what happened last time as a learning experience, and hopefully be out there a lot sooner. I'm not going to rush it. I'm going to listen to my body and my brain.