Ryan Zimmerman wants to return, probably won't
While Nationals third base Ryan Zimmerman did not rule out a return by the end of this season, he said he wants to make caution a priority with his injury and seemed mostly resign to finishing as a spectator, vowing not to play unless his strained rib muscle heals completely.
"I wouldn't say it's all the way done yet," Zimmerman said. "I'm working every day to see if I can rehab and get back out there. We're just being cautious. We don't want to come back a little bit too soon and hurt it even worse. I'm getting better each day. I'm trying as hard as I can to get back out there for a few more."
Zimmerman, who turns 26 tomorrow, said his injury - a strain to the intercostal muscle on the right side of his midsection - typically takes anywhere from one to two weeks to fully heal. He first started feeling the strain six days ago and played for a one game with it aching. He felt improvement today for the first time, but nowhere near enough for Zimmerman to not sit out a fifth straight game.
"We're not going to rush anything," Zimmerman said. "You want to have no pain at all. Under the circumstances that we're under, there's really no reason to go out there or take pain medicine or do something like that to play. To get out there and play, it would have to be 100 percent better with no risk to hurt it.
"There's no reason to go out there and risk it. It's frustrating. You always want to finish the season with these guys. We've been together the whole time, and we've been through some tough times. Obviously, I want to finish with these guys. It's tough."
Zimmerman wants to sit out for two reasons. First, he believes Alberto Gonzalez gives the Nationals a better chance to win than he does while playing with diminished health.
I didn't think I was going to be as good as Gonzo out there. If I'm going to go out there and play at 75 percent, it's not worth it for me or the guys in here. That's one thing I've always said. It's not fair to them or me if I'm out there and I can't help them win."
Zimmerman also does not want to impact his offseason routine. Typically, Zimmerman will rest for two weeks after a season and then start preparing for the next spring training. Playing for would risk perhaps a month of rehabbing and altering Zimmerman's offseason routine. In 2008, after Zimmerman rehabbed a wrist injury in the offseason, he said he felt affected by the change in preparation.
"You take a couple weeks off, and then it's full-go getting ready for the next season," Zimmerman said. "It's a three-, 3 ½-month process getting ready for next season. You wouldn't want to postpone that. That routine that I've gotten into the past couple years, what I've done in the offseason, is a big reason for the success I've had on the field."
If Zimmerman's season is indeed over, he finishes with one of the best seasons in his young career, building on his breakout 2009 season. Zimmerman finished with career highs in batting average (.307) and on-base percentage (.388), and his .899 OPS ranks ninth in the National League.
Zimmerman has hit 25 home runs, but, oddly, zero in September and just one in his last 132 at-bats. Zimmerman hasn't hit a home run in 76 at-bats, the third-longest drought of his career and longest since he went 134 at-bats without one in 2008. Zimmerman still managed to be productive, hitting .361/.418/.431 (average/on-base/slugging) in September. He did not believe his rib injury affected his power.
"I mean, I wouldn't say it affected me that much," Zimmerman said. "I felt it a little bit, but no more than anyone else is feeling things. I was still getting my hits and being productive at the plate. I just hadn't been hitting any homers for however long it was."
| September 27, 2010; 6:21 PM ET
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