Williams charts Zimmerman's progress, says LaRoche should be available Friday

Ryan Zimmerman is continuing the strengthening phase of his recovery from a torn right hamstring, and Nationals manager Matt Williams said Wednesday that the team would re-evaluate the next steps in the process once they return to D.C. on Friday for a six-game homestand against Philadelphia and Atlanta.

"The last MRI was good," Williams told reporters in Los Angeles before the Nats faced the Dodgers in the finale of a three-game series. "He's continuing his strengthening. He's jogging and continuing his jogging. Once he can get through all that stuff, he can start the real baseball activity."

zimmerman-catch-outfield-white-sidebar.jpgZimmerman is throwing, but has yet to swing a bat, Williams said.

"It's a long road," the manager said. "He (hurt) it pretty good. We want to make sure when he's back, he's back. He's progressing. Not a whole lot of detail to give to anybody, though. ... He's still a little ways away, I think."

Once the Nationals are convinced Zimmerman can run at full speed without risking re-injury, they can turn their attentions to getting him some at-bats. It's likely that time will come when their minor league affiliates have concluded their seasons, so fall instructional league in Viera, Fla., may be the only place Zimmerman can get at-bats in controlled, game-like situations.

"It's important for him to get some swings," Williams said. "He's going to go play a little bit. That'll be part of the progression, too."

If Zimmerman can return to the Nationals before the regular season ends, Williams envisions him playing the same role he played before the injury: splitting time at third base, left field and first base. Zimmerman could also be a weapon off the bench, Williams added.

"I would imagine he'd play all three of those on any given day," Williams said. "There's no real set plan."

Williams has no concerns with Zimmerman's defense at third base, pointing out that he played well there immediately before the injury. Since Zimmerman went on the disabled list, the Nationals have acquired second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera, a move that has allowed Anthony Rendon to play full-time at the hot corner.

The manager wants to make sure that Zimmerman can run out a grounder, or score from first base on a double to the gap, without the risk of hurting himself again.

"Everybody talks about his defense, but he made every play that was hit to him," Williams said. "I'm not worried about that. What I'm worried about is his health and making sure that if he stands there, hits a ball to short that he can go and run to first base without any issues. If it happens again, we definitely lose him, and we don't want that."

Williams said first baseman Adam LaRoche, who has been dealing with tightness in his back, is feeling much better today and is available off the bench. Tyler Moore started at first base in LaRoche's place today.

"(LaRoche) can be available off the bench for us late today, certainly," Williams said. "We want to make sure that for the long haul he's good. We'll try to give him the day today if we can and the off-day tomorrow and he'll be back on Friday."

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