Ryan Zimmerman is still holding out hope his strained intercostal muscles will feel better this week, and he'll be able to get back on the field and play again for the Nationals this year. So is manager Jim Riggleman. But realistically, both of them know the third baseman's year is probably over.
Zimmerman's strained muscles are still causing him pain, and they're worrisome enough that the Nationals don't want to risk him aggravating an injury and spend the first month of his offseason rehabbing it.
"You want to have no pain at all," Zimmerman said. "Under the circumstances we're in, there's really no reason to go out there, take pain medicine or do something like that to play. For me to get out there and play, it would have to be 100 percent better, with no risk to hurt it."
If the injury does end Zimmerman's year, it would leave him with 142 games played and numbers that don't completely do justice to the fine year he's had. He has 25 homers and 85 RBI, but his average (.307) and on-base percentage (.388) and OPS (.899) are all career highs, and Zimmerman is a favorite to win his second straight Gold Glove. According to FanGraphs' calculation of Wins Above Replacement (WAR), a statistic that uses offense and defense to measure a player's value, Zimmerman is the third-best player in baseball this year.
"Obviously, I've done some things better. I've probably done some things worse," Zimmerman said. "But as far as maturing and learning the game, I think every year is good. That's the key and luxury of being here for a long time is you get the chance to learn at this level. Every year, I feel like I learn more, and I think that helps me become a better all-around player."
Zimmerman hadn't homered since Aug. 30, and while he said the injury was affecting him at the plate, he stopped short of saying it was the reason he hadn't homered. He was hitting .361 this month, and had a hit in 15 of the 18 games he played.
Barring a change in his condition, Zimmerman will continue to sit, likely done for the year as the Nationals finish the season without him. He had surgery on the hamate bone in his left hand after the 2007 season, and got off to a slow start in 2008. The most important thing for Zimmerman now is to make sure that doesn't happen again.
"Everyone works out a lot (in the offseason), and if you don't, you're behind the curve. That put me about a month or a month-and-a-half behind," Zimmerman said. "It's just something you don't want to deal with. After a long season, you're first of all ready to rest for a couple weeks and let your body recover. The last thing you want to do is be doing rehab five times a week when you should kind of be relaxing and let everything else get better."