Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman received a cortisone injection in his aching right shoulder before he went 2 for 4 this afternoon in the Nationals’ 2-1 loss in Baltimore, a procedure Zimmerman plans to repeat when necessary in order to regain his effectiveness and stay off the disabled list for the remainder season.
Zimmerman’s offensive performance, which included his first RBI in 11 games, snapped a 5-for-48 slump and gave Zimmerman his first multiple-hit game since June 8. The cortisone shot eliminated the pain caused by inflammation in Zimmerman’s AC joint and allowed the Nationals’ cornerstone player to feel like himself again.
“Relief,” Zimmerman said. “It was so bad before that I couldn’t do anything. Obviously, I wasn’t performing. To be able to go out there today and feel a little bit like I could do the things I feel like I’ve always been able to do, it gave me a little bit more confidence. It obviously makes you happier.”
Zimmerman received the cortisone shot at roughly 12:30 p.m., about an hour before first pitch. Before this afternoon, Zimmerman’s shoulder ailment had sapped him of strength and bat speed. He said he missed fastballs he never would have missed when healthy. He entered the day hitting .218/.285/.305 for the season, playing hurt in the wake of signing a six-year, $100 million contract extension in spring training.
In his second at-bat today, Zimmerman came to the plate with a runner on third and two outs. He stung a 95-mph fastball from Jake Arrieta into left field, the most authority he has shown when pulling the ball in weeks. In the eighth, Zimmerman ripped a ground-ball single up the middle.
“He looked like the old Zim,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “He swung the bat with authority. That’s a great sign. … He seemed a lot free. He’ll be real sore tomorrow. In my era, we grew up on those shots.”
“We just did kind of a test run today to see if it would help,” Zimmerman said. “It worked fine. Now that we know it helps a little bit, I’ll still try to do my rehab and stuff like that and try and shy away from it. As we go do down further into the season and into the second half, we kind of know that we have that in have our back pocket.”
When a player receives cortisone, it numbs pain as the affected body part continues to deteriorate and can lead to long-term damage. For Zimmerman, because of the nature of the AC joint, he believes the sacrifice is worthwhile. At worst, he said, playing through the injury, as the bones in his shoulder rubbed together, would cause bone chips to build up.
“It’s not a ligament or a tendon or anything like that,” Zimmerman said. “That was the main question for everyone involved making the decision. It’s right in the AC joint, which is just bone. If it was a ligament or a tendon or something like that, then numbing it is not smart, because then you could do more damage. The doctors assured us I can’t do more damage. It’s just a matter of getting the pain out of there so that I can play.”
Zimmerman’s plan to receive cortisone shots when necessary could lead to offseason surgery, though. If the inflammation continues to plague him, Zimmerman will rest for a month after the season before determining if he needs the surgery. If he does undergo surgery in the winter, Zimmerman said it would be a relatively benign procedure that would shut him down for four to six weeks.
“If it continues to do this every few weeks, at the end of the year they can go in there and take the little chips out,” Zimmerman said. “That’s about as minor surgery as you can get.”
Zimmerman received two cortisone shots in mid-April, when the inflammation first flared and he missed 13 games on the disabled list. At the time, Zimmerman and the Nationals hoped the shots in tandem with two weeks of rest would scuttle the injury.
“It got rid of it for a little while and then in kind of crept back in,” Zimmerman said. “It’s to the point where, there’s no point in [resting for] the 10 or 15 days, because we know what the outcome is. We’ll just give it a shot, and hopefully it make it feel better for a few weeks at a time. If it’s back to where it was, I’ll get another one.”
Zimmerman said he will receive the shots, “the amount of times you can.” He will not need another until at least after the all-star break, he said.
“For the second half, it just depends how it reacts to this, how long it kind of feels good,” Zimmerman said. “If it starts to hurt again, we’ll consider doing something else. [Getting a shot] again, it’s not something you want to get into a habit of doing. But it’s better than missing time.”