Zimmerman, Lobaton set to return from DL on Friday

ATLANTA - Ryan Zimmerman and Jose Lobaton are on their way to Atlanta and are expected to be activated off the disabled list in time for Friday night's game at Turner Field, Nationals manager Dusty Baker said today.

Both Zimmerman and Lobaton completed a three-day rehab assignment with Triple-A Syracuse, emerging with no issues and convincing club officials they're ready to return.

"They're on the way now," Baker said prior to the Nationals series opener against the Braves. "There's a good chance they'll be activated tomorrow, barring nothing happens today."

Both players already have lockers labeled with their names in the visitors' clubhouse at Turner Field.

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Zimmerman, out since Aug. 1 with a left wrist contusion suffered when he was hit by a pitch, went 5-for-12 with a double, a homer and five RBIs in his three games with Syracuse (all played on the road at Toledo).

Lobaton, out since July 20 with left elbow tendinitis, went 5-for-13 with an RBI, a walk and his first stolen base - he took second on the back end of a double-steal, with Michael A. Taylor taking third - at any level since 2010.

The Nationals won't announce corresponding roster moves until Friday, but rookie catcher Pedro Severino figures to be optioned back to Syracuse to clear a spot for Lobaton. Right-hander A.J. Cole, who was recalled today because the team needed a fresh arm for its overtaxed bullpen, could be demoted after one game to make room for Zimmerman and give the Nats a full bench again.

Zimmerman's return, in particular, could have a dramatic domino effect on the Nationals' lineup and bench. Once the 31-year-old first baseman is back playing on a daily basis, Daniel Murphy will move back to second base, likely pushing Trea Turner to center field and Ben Revere to the bench.

The Nationals acknowledge Zimmerman's season-long struggles at the plate - he's hitting a career-worst .222 with a .678 OPS, 12 homers and 38 RBIs in 80 games - but they also appear to believe they are best off with the alignment of Zimmerman at first base, Murphy at second base and Turner in center field vs. Murphy at first base, Turner at second base and Revere in center field.

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