The Nats lose one of their hottest bats with the third baseman being shelved for at least two weeks with a hamstring injury. Infielder Zach Walters was brought up from Triple-A Syracuse to take the open spot on the 25-man roster.
Before today's game at Coors Field, manager Matt Williams addressed the loss of Zimmerman, how it affects the club now and how it might alter the team's approach to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
The Nats decided to place Zimmerman on the DL before receiving the results of his MRI this morning, so they don't yet know the extent of the injury or how long he'll be out.
"He's pretty sore today, so we'll see those results," Williams said. "I don't know when we'll have those officially. But Zach's here. We're going to put (Zimmerman) on the DL. And Zach will be here for 15 in the least. So once we have those results, we'll know a little bit better on grade of strain and things like that. But it's pretty sore today."
Zimmerman doesn't feel any better than he did last night when he strained the hamstring.
"No, it's actually a little worse. It's a quick turnaround, too," Williams said. "When I spoke with him this morning, he hadn't had any treatment on it or anything like that. But when you're hot and it happens, it doesn't feel quite as bad as it does the next morning when you wake up. So we'll see what the results are, but nonetheless, we'll put him on the DL today."
Catcher Wilson Ramos spent time on the DL with a hamstring injury earlier this year, but Williams said Zimmerman's seems to be more severe. Zimmerman isn't on crutches, but he isn't doing well.
"He's acting a little bit worse than Wilson's was," Williams said. "Wilson came in the next day and said, 'You know, it's not too bad.' He didn't have any issues walking, things like that. Zim's pretty sore, it's pretty tight. So we'll have to see. I would venture to say it's probably a little bit worse. ...
"He's walking. But it's ginger. He's certainly not straightening the leg all the way. So that's a concern. So we'll see what the pictures have to tell us and we'll evaluate from there."
With Zimmerman out again, the Nats will employ the same plan they did the last time he was out with Danny Espinosa getting the majority of work at second and Anthony Rendon playing third. Walters could also be a factor.
"When we sent Zach down from the big leagues last time, the instructions were to have him play second base, shortstop and third base, and he's been doing a lot of that. He's been playing some outfield as well," Williams said. "So he's had some reps at second, so he can give us a little bit there, too. We can certainly spell (Ian Desmond) with Danny if we need to and Zach can play second. He's got some games in there.
"He's swinging the bat really well. He's on a 13-game hitting streak, so we want to get him reps certainly. With the lefty today, of course, Danny is back in there. So we'll see what the coming days give us. But Zach's been playing really well."
The Nats chose Walters over other options because of his ability to play so many different positions, especially in the infield. He can play second, third and short while Kevin Frandsen takes over for Zimmerman as the primary backup to Adam LaRoche at first.
"The way our roster sits right now, we have two extra outfielders, and if we were to think about another outfielder, then we would be really limited on our infield," Williams said. "The fact that (Steven) Souza's playing well, Zach's playing well - but with the injury to Zim, we needed certainly some middle-infield backup there. And to balance the bench a little bit with infielders and outfielders, he was the choice."
Zimmerman will join the team in Cincinnati before the Nats decide the next step.
But with the trade deadline eight days away, the team will have to make a call on whether it needs to find a replacement for Zimmerman before he's ready to return.
"Injuries certainly help you make decisions about what you want or need, but Mike (Rizzo) and I talk all the time. I talk to the staff all the time about what they would think that would potentially be a need," Williams said. "You look at the team as a whole and you go, 'OK, where would you need something?' Back-of-the-bullpen guys have been phenomenal. Starters have been great. The outfield is great.
"You look at Zim's injury and that could potentially speak to you and say, 'Well, let's look at that.' So depending on how long he may be out, that's something that we may take a look at as well. But we have constant dialogue about who potentially could be out there, what it may mean for your team and what it would cost, and whether it's worth it. All of those things come into play.
"There hasn't been any definite discussion on any particular guys as of this time. But certainly Zim's injury and him being out at least two weeks, we have to take a hard look at that. So we'll do that in the coming days."
Williams also said that Jayson Werth is out of the lineup today because of a "little barky" right knee coming out of the break.
"The series against Milwaukee, it was hurting him a little bit," Williams said. "It was hurting him a little bit coming in here and last night, he had am extraordinary game. Down in the corner a couple times, he slid once and came in after the game last night pretty sore. He texted me early this morning and said he woke up feeling pretty bad. He's available certainly.
"It's nothing big, but we've thought if we can look at giving him two days in a row off, maybe it'll calm down a little bit for him. Give him some treatment and some (anti-inflammatories). I think he's fine, but it's just barking on him. ... It's one of those things where you go through the season and things creep up on you, so if we can, we need to give him a day."