Elías, Zimmerman close to wrapping up rehab stints

Sean Doolittle’s pending return to the Nationals bullpen is significant, no doubt. But the other left-hander on the verge of rejoining that unit could prove to be quite significant himself.

Roenis Elías, who faced only two batters after his July 31 acquisition from the Mariners before straining his right hamstring running the bases, appears to be entering the final days of his rehab and could join Doolittle on the active roster by the end of the week.

Elias-Throws-Mariners-Sidebar.jpgElías threw off a mound today, the second time he’s done that in the last week, and his next step will be to face live hitters. That progression could happen as soon as Wednesday.

“He said he was a little sore, but a good sore,” manager Davey Martinez said. “We’ll see how he feels tomorrow. If he feels good tomorrow, we might let him throw an inning as well, a sim game, and go from there.”

The Nationals were counting on Elías taking over a prominent role in the bullpen when they dealt minor league pitchers Elvis Alvarado and Taylor Guilbeau to Seattle for him in the final hours before the July 31 trade deadline. Given their longstanding issues from the left side of their bullpen, the Nats had Elías pegged for big matchups late in games.

But after retiring the first two batters he faced in his team debut Aug. 2 at Arizona, Elías was given a chance to bat for himself and hurt his hamstring trying to beat out a chopper to short. He hasn’t appeared in a game since.

Elías and Doolittle’s return would give Martinez two late-inning options from the left side of his bullpen. And paired with the two righties also acquired at the trade deadline - Daniel Hudson (1.46 ERA, 0.811 WHIP) and Hunter Strickland (1.64 ERA, 0.727 WHIP) - the Nationals could finally have four reliable relievers to turn to in crunch time.

Meanwhile, Ryan Zimmerman’s rehab stint with Single-A Potomac appears to be close to wrapping up.

Zimmerman is in Potomac’s lineup tonight against Myrtle Beach, batting third and playing first base. It’s his fifth rehab game for the P-Nats following two games for Double-A Harrisburg.

The Nationals want Zimmerman, who has endured through two long stints on the injured list due to plantar fasciitis in his right foot, to get at least 25 at-bats before he’s activated. He’s currently at 22 plate appearances over six games, during which time he has gone 6-for-16 with two doubles, three RBIs and four walks.

“I spoke to him on the phone yesterday, and he says he feels good,” Martinez said. “His foot feels good. He’s running better. He feels fine. I told him now it’s just getting consistent at-bats and just playing. I’ve said it before: He’s played 33 (big league) games all year long. This is basically spring training for him. We want to get him at least 20-25 at-bats.”

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