Martinez will speak to Zimmerman about rehab games

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman is not on this trip but he is closer to a return from his right oblique strain that has kept him sidelined since May 10. He has now missed 39 games.

Ryan-Zimmerman-running-white-sidebar.jpgManager Davey Martinez said he will speak to Zimmerman about rehab games possibly for next week, even though the veteran may not be too excited about warming up in the minor leagues.

"As soon as he's ready to play, I'll have to sit down and talk to him," Martinez said. "I'd like for him to go and get some at-bats. Whether it's nearby or somewhere. He's missed some time. I know these guys don't like on rehab assignments. But for him I think it's important that he does just to get some at-bats and get back to playing.

"It's not easy going out there and playing seven, eight, nine innings. I want him to get comfortable doing it, be on his feet for two, three, four days maybe, and then we'll go from there."

*Third baseman Anthony Rendon is again locked in as the No. 3 hitter in the lineup. He is hitting .289 with nine homers and 31 RBIs this season. He broke up left-hander Blake Snell's no-hit bid in the seventh inning with a leadoff double. Martinez said Rendon is critical to this team's success and doesn't get the recognition he deserves. He spoke during pregame about what Rendon has been doing well to get into this nice rhythm.

"For me he's getting himself ready early," Martinez said. "He gets his foot down on time. And he's really staying up the middle of the field. Not only is he a good hitter but he is a premier player in this league. I always said, even from the other side looking at him, that he is a gold glover. For some reason people don't value the way he plays the game but watching him every day he's one of the best players in our league."

*Outfielder Adam Eaton is the designated hitter again today at Tropicana Field. Monday he hit ninth in the order. Today he will bat leadoff. Martinez wants to be careful with Eaton and his knee and ankle, so he decided not to play him on defense on the Rays' unforgiving artificial turf.

"He's been good. It's kind of maintaining the fact that he's back but yet we want to keep him healthy," Martinez said." Two days on the turf? We are going to Philly, he has a day off tomorrow. Going to Philly, grass again, so he'll be right back out there. For me it's really important to just get him some at-bats. And let him feel good about himself but also not get hurt."

*Right-hander Jeremy Hellickson had a bullpen session prior to the game. Martinez wanted it to be a simulated-type game so Hellickson could face live hitters. If all goes well, Saturday looks like the spot for Hellickson to return in Philadelphia.

"We haven't decided yet," Martinez said regarding Saturday. "He's going to out there and act like he's facing hitters today in his bullpen kind of like a SIM-game type bullpen and we'll see where he's at."

*In the 11-0 shutout loss, Martinez decided to get a lot of regulars out of the game late, including Bryce Harper and Rendon. He replaced them with Brian Goodwin in right field and Spencer Kieboom at first base. Mark Reynolds switched from first base to third base. Martinez liked what he saw defensively from Reynolds on the hot corner. Reynolds retired the side in the ninth with a hand in all three outs.

"It was pretty cool," Martinez said. "He said he hadn't made those plays when he was 20. But it was pretty awesome to see him do that. I told him, I said, 'you just opened up another can'. He started laughing, he said 'hey, don't get used to that'.

"It's great to know. Even having Kieboom, the fact that he can play first base is great. We were able to get some guys off their feet. I thought that was important yesterday being that we have an early game today. I've seen Mark for years, I know he was a good third baseman and I know he can do it. When we put him over there it was nice to see him make those plays."

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