Ryan Zimmerman starts rehab assignment at Class A Potomac

With his first swing Friday in Potomac, Ryan Zimmerman smacked a flyball to deep right field. A locked-in Zimmerman may have hit the pitch out. Rehabbing Zimmerman swung just a little bit under it. But on his first live-action swing after 41 missed games, he wasn’t far off.

After Friday night’s game — when Zimmerman went 0 for 3 with a sacrifice fly — the Nationals veteran said a big league return isn’t far off. Zimmerman said things “felt good” in his four plate appearances as the Potomac Nationals’ designated hitter. “If everything goes well,” he said, “Tuesday would be a realistic date” for a return.

Nationals Manager Matt Williams said Friday that a Tuesday return after a weekend’s worth of rehab games would be “awfully early” but didn’t rule it out.

“It’s not like he’s got to get really back into running shape,” Williams said. “It’s a question of his timing and feeling good at the plate and seeing some live pitching. Is he close? Yeah, I think he’s close.”

Zimmerman, who broke his thumb diving back into second base against the Braves in mid-April, said he is no longer worried about the thumb — his main concern is regaining his timing at the plate.

“Obviously, you’re only going to get about four games of at-bats,” Zimmerman said. “It’s never really taken me long to get ready to hit. You’d like to have a little bit more, but at the same time I don’t want to waste hits down here. I’d rather go get hits up there.”

Zimmerman’s plate appearances included a flyball to right, a weak grounder to second, a flyball to center and a hard groundball to short.

Zimmerman said he wants to play a full nine innings before rejoining the Nationals and “felt fine” taking groundballs at first and third this week. He also has been fielding balls in left field in preparation for a possible position switch and said he expects he’ll “probably play more left” with Potomac, his first professional innings at the position.

“If I can feel comfortable out there and feel like I’m not a liability out there and can help the team, then I’m all for it,” he said of move to the outfield, brought on by the organization’s concerns that nagging shoulder problems will continue to affect the 29-year-old’s throwing.

Zimmerman expects to be in the Potomac lineup again Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. Williams said he’ll try to see Zimmerman play Monday — the big league Nationals’ day off — before making any final decisions about a Tuesday return.

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