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Posted at 08:27 PM ET, 06/03/2011

Ryan Zimmerman to start minor league rehab Sunday in Hagerstown

Ryan Zimmerman will begin his minor league rehab assignment Sunday in Hagerstown, a sign that he is close to returning to the Nationals after missing all but the season’s first eight games. It also means Zimmerman’s first action outside of extended spring training since early April will come as Bryce Harper’s teammate. Game time Sunday in Hagerstown is 4:05 p.m.

Zimmerman has played at extended spring training for more than a week, taking batting practice and appearing in scrimmages. Zimmerman played in an extended spring training game today, playing four innings at third base and going 0 for 4. Afterward, he returned to Washington.

Zimmerman often says he needs little time to prepare after not playing for a long period of time, so he could join the Nationals before they return home from their current 11-game road trip.

Zimmerman last played April 9, when he tore an abdominal muscle sliding into second base. He underwent surgery May 3 and has been rehabbing ever since. The Nationals expected a six-week rehab, but it seems Zimmerman could return a week or so earlier.

Without their best player, the Nationals have gone 22-26. Before he aggravated his injury, Zimmerman was hitting .357/.486/.536. Remarkably, he still ranks fifth on the Nationals in wins above replacement among position players at 0.6.

By  |  08:27 PM ET, 06/03/2011

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