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Posted at 06:01 PM ET, 05/04/2012

Ryan Zimmerman nearing return after hitting again

(Greg Fiume - GETTY IMAGES)
Ryan Zimmerman hit off a tee this afternoon and felt “no discomfort,” Manager Davey Johnson. Zimmerman will ramp up his swinging tomorrow, which he said will provide more of a “true test” for whether he’ll return off the disabled list Sunday, Monday or later.

Zimmerman took 20 swings off a tee at between 60 and 75 percent of full strength. (“Pretty hard day for me,” he joked.) While Zimmerman said he’ll have a better idea tomorrow for the fitness of the inflamed joint in his right shoulder, his activity today encouraged him. When he first hurt his shoulder, Zimmerman felt no pain throwing or stretching his shoulder, but the inflammation would not let him swing like he felt capable.

“I didn’t feel like I felt before,” Zimmerman said. “So that was good.”

Zimmerman, who also played catch and fielded groundballs today, might take full batting practice tomorrow, depending how his shoulder responds. Johnson said “there’s a miniscule chance” Zimmerman will return Sunday for the Nationals’ primetime showcase against the Phillies. The Nationals’ first Sunday ESPN night game in three years will not be a motivating factor for Zimmerman to rush back.

“I don’t care that it’s Sunday Night Baseball,” Zimmerman said. “It’s the same if it was Monday day baseball and we were playing against Georgetown. It’s a game. I don’t really care about that.”

The Nationals feel confident Zimmerman will return by Tuesday, when they begin a six-game road trip in Pittsburgh. Zimmerman does not want to go on a minor-league rehab assignment, and the Nationals agree.

“When Ryan Zimmerman is ready to swing the bat, he’ll be swinging it on the major league level,” General Manager Mike Rizzo said.

Said Johnson: “We’re not going to waste those bullets.”

The Nationals have gone 5-5 without Zimmerman in the lineup. And it seems like they’ll only have to play two more games without him.

By  |  06:01 PM ET, 05/04/2012

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