Ryan Zimmerman ready to return from DL (Nats lose 10-6)

Ryan Zimmerman was back in the Nationals clubhouse this morning. And barring some surprise development, he’ll be back in the Nationals lineup Tuesday night in Cleveland.

Zimmerman completed a three-day rehab assignment with Single-A Potomac on Saturday and emerged reporting no issues with the strained left ribcage muscle that landed him on the disabled list earlier this month. He’s scheduled to join his teammates on tonight’s charter flight and be activated off the DL in time for the opener of their interleague series against the Indians.

“I think I’m good to go,” Zimmerman said.

Ryan Zimmerman runs white.jpgOut since July 7, the day after he felt a tug in his left side on a swing, Zimmerman enjoyed a productive - if brief - stint on rehab. He went 5-for-12 with a homer, a double and five RBIs while with Potomac, playing a total of 14 innings at first base.

Whether that brief burst of success will carry over once Zimmerman returns to a major league lineup remains to be seen. He was hitting a career-worst .221 with a .284 on-base percentage and .402 slugging percentage before landing on the DL.

“I didn’t take that much time off, but it was good to get down there and get some at-bats and be ready to come back and help this team in the second half get going,” he said. “I’ve had some success. I faced some pretty good pitchers, actually. Everything feels good.”

Zimmerman’s expected return will force the Nationals to make a corresponding roster move before Tuesday’s game. Barring an unknown injury to someone else, the club likely has to choose between Michael A. Taylor and Trea Turner for a demotion.

The club has other roster moves to consider on its pitching staff, with Joe Ross and Sammy Solis each pitching for low SIngle-A Hagerstown today and each getting closer to returning from injuries.

The Nationals optioned reliever Koda Glover to Triple-A Syracuse this morning, a move necessitated by the recall of right-hander Lucas Giolito to start their series finale against the Padres.

Glover, an eighth-round pick in last summer’s draft who has burst onto the scene and climbed the organizational ladder since, impressed in his brief big league debut this week (two scoreless appearances). The hard-throwing right-hander seems an obvious candidate to return later this season and perhaps even hold a significant role down the stretch.

Update: It’s been an eventful afternoon here so far, and it’s only the fourth inning. The Nationals lead 5-4 thanks to sacrifice flies by Jayson Werth and Daniel Murphy, an RBI single by Murphy and a towering two-run homer by Wilson Ramos that traveled an estimated 455 feet (four feet farther than Bryce Harper’s third-deck homer Wednesday night). But Giolito labored in his latest big league start. The rookie gave up four runs in 3 1/3 innings. Only two of them were earned, but he still contributed to the problems by struggling to throw his off-speed pitches for strikes, walking three batters, striking out zero and running out of gas by the fourth inning for the second straight start. Nobody should be making long-term evaluations based on only three big league starts, but let’s just say Giolito so far has been rather underwhelming.

Update II: They’ve completed the sixth inning now, and the Nats have extended their lead to 6-4. It’s been the Murphy and Ramos Show once again, the two hitters combining to go 5-for-5 with a sac fly, a double, a homer and five RBIs, including Ramos’ two-out, run-scoring single to right in the bottom of the fifth. Matt Belisle, meanwhile, deserves some major praise for his relief work today: 2 2/3 scoreless innings to bridge the gap from Giolito to the back of the Nats bullpen. He may not pitch in a lot of high-leverage spots, but Belisle now sports a 1.75 ERA and 1.09 WHIP this season. That’s not bad at all.

Update III: This game is now tied. Shawn Kelley entered for the top of the eighth with a 6-4 lead. Two batters later, Kelley had surrendered homers to Alex Dickerson and Ryan Schimpf, and so this is now a 6-6 game heading to the bottom of the eighth.

Update IV: Well, this game turned awfully sour in a hurry, didn’t it. After Kelley gave up two runs in the eighth, Jonathan Papelbon proceeded to give up four runs in the ninth. A 6-4 lead quickly turned into a 10-6 deficit, which is also what the final score was. That was not a particularly encouraging display of late-inning relief from a club that is trying to decide whether it’s willing to give up big-time prospects in order to acquire more late-inning relievers before next week’s trade deadline.

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