Ryan Zimmerman's attempt to return before season's end continues, but the Nationals first baseman continues to feel a pull in his strained left oblique muscle when he tries to swing, reducing his chances of making that return.
Zimmerman, out since September 8 with this injury, has begun taking light swings in the batting tunnel at Nationals Park the last couple of days but hasn't been able to take full cuts because of continued soreness in his left side.
"Still feels it, unfortunately," manager Matt Williams said. "So, it's light in the cage. It's fungo and tee work, a little bit of soft-toss. He's trying to work through that part of it and get ready to go. But he's day-to-day still. That's the best way we can put it."
The Nationals aren't going to shut Zimmerman down, believing there's still enough time left to attempt to get him back in their lineup. But they also aren't going to push him to do something he's not ready to do, given the club's current state (they enter play Wednesday 6 1/2 games behind the Mets with 12 to play) and the risk of more serious injury.
If he suffered a major oblique tear, Zimmerman probably would lose a large chunk of the offseason to rehab, jeopardizing his preparation for 2016.
"It's an injury that's something you don't want to mess with," Williams said. "We've all seen guys come back too soon from that type of injury and be set back months. We don't want that to happen. We'd love to have him as quickly as he can get back. But for now, he's not ready to do that yet. So he'll progress and keep doing what he's doing. And hopefully that pull in there goes away and he can be free of mind when he steps on the field to play."
This winter will be an important one for Zimmerman, who still has four years and $62 million guaranteed on his contract. The Nationals desperately need their first baseman (who turns 31 next week) on the field as much as possible next season and beyond, which would be a reversal of trends.
Assuming he doesn't return in 2015, Zimmerman will fail to play in at least 102 games for the third time in five seasons. He has totaled only 156 games played the last two years, with combined offensive numbers (21 homers, 111 RBI, 44 doubles, .780 OPS) that would be solid had they merely been compiled over one season.
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