Ryan Zimmerman is beginning a rehab assignment tonight for the Double-A Harrisburg Senators down the road in Richmond, Va., against the Flying Squirrels. Zimmerman is playing first base and batting third in the lineup behind left fielder Andrew Stevenson and shortstop Luis Garcia. Center fielder Michael A. Taylor is batting cleanup.
“He’s in Richmond with Harrisburg,” said Nationals manager Davey Martinez. “He will probably play five or six innings today and then we will see how he recovers.”
If his right foot reacts well tonight and tomorrow morning, it appears the schedule for Zimmerman is two games in Richmond and then a return to D.C. in time to catch the club’s charter to Pittsburgh Sunday night.
But if Zimmerman is activated for Monday against the Pirates, the Nats will have a tough decision to make. Their position-player bench consists of Asdrúbal Cabrera, Matt Adams, Kurt Suzuki, Howie Kendrick and Gerardo Parra. They would need to pick one of those players to take off the 25-man roster to get Zimmerman back with the club, or go with a seven-man bullpen and possibly release veteran Javy Guerra, or make some other move with their corps of relievers.
Martinez spent the pregame media session talking about why the Nationals decided to not start Max Scherzer this weekend to give the veteran more time to build strength. The Nats likewise want to be careful with the first baseman because this is the second time this season he has had to stop on the injured list with the plantar fasciitis in his right foot.
The skipper detailed their club rehab philosophy and how they handled Kendrick this season. The veteran infielder missed five games early on with a left hamstring strain and then nine games recently with a right hamstring strain.
“It’s never easy. You want these guys when they are performing well. You want them to play as much as possible,” Martinez said. “But with that being said, and knowing the history of players, we have to be smart. I think I handled Howie really, really good, and it’s been through conversation, also, with Howie: how he’s feeling every day.”
Martinez said he appreciated Kendrick coming to him when he needed a day off.
“There were times when I did run him out there three days in a row, and then we had conversations and he said, ‘Hey, I need a day,’” Martinez said. “And that’s great and I love that. I told him ‘The biggest thing is to get you through the whole year and get you healthy.’ Because when he’s healthy he’s tremendous. He can help us in many ways. Now that he’s back, hopefully we’ll have him back for the rest of the year.”