Nationals' Zimmerman Heads to Disabled List

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Washington Nationals, or whatever is left of them, will today send their starting third baseman, Ryan Zimmerman, to the place where much of the team nucleus already resides: the disabled list.

An MRI exam yesterday on Zimmerman's left shoulder indicated a small labral tear. The Nationals will seek at least three more medical opinions before determining how much time Zimmerman is likely to miss.

"I've had players who've had the same injury who took 10 days off, then played for five years," General Manager Jim Bowden said. "Then I've had some who've been operated on. It can be anywhere in between, and we just don't know yet."

Zimmerman, who has missed the team's past seven games, injured his left shoulder more than two weeks ago while sliding head-first into second base. At first, he continued to play through the injury. Last Monday, he took a day off, figuring 24 hours' rest might help. When that didn't cure the soreness, Zimmerman began a protracted waiting period, wondering when his injury -- always termed day-to-day -- would subside.

Instead, it persisted. Yesterday's MRI, and an evaluation by team orthopedist Benjamin Shaffer, led to at least one recommendation: Zimmerman needs rest and anti-inflammatories. The Nationals shipped the test results to specialists James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala.; Timothy Kremcheck in Cincinnati; and Robert Cofield in Rochester, Minn.

"We'll get their reads of the MRI," Bowden said, "and then we'll take further steps from there. Obviously we care about the long-term for Ryan, we'll just be cautious."

For today's game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Nationals Park, the team will recall Kory Casto from Class AAA Columbus. Casto, 26, who has experience as both an infielder and outfielder, appeared in 16 games last season with Washington, batting .130. With Columbus this season, he has a .315 average.

Zimmerman is the eighth Washington player to land on the disabled list. More than half of the team's Opening Day lineup is now recovering (or trying to recover) from various injuries. Right fielder Austin Kearns is regaining the full range of motion in his arm following a right elbow injury; closer Chad Cordero is days away from again trying to throw off a mound, a test for his injured shoulder; second baseman Ronnie Belliard missed the last road trip to rehab his left calf; catcher Paul Lo Duca, recovering from a right hand injury, is just starting to take soft toss again.

Even the already-injured players have managed to experience setbacks. First baseman Nick Johnson, out since May 13 with a right wrist injury, was evaluated by Shaffer yesterday, too. Johnson still feels tenderness in his wrist, injured while swinging at a pitch against the New York Mets, and Johnson's wrist will remain in a cast for two more weeks -- or two more than expected. He'll be reevaluated on June 16.

"It's been a big blow," Bowden said of the injuries. "No question about that."

For at least much of this week, it looked like Zimmerman would avoid the disabled list. On Saturday, he took batting practice and said he felt okay. Sunday, though, the left shoulder still felt sore, and Zimmerman said that "if it doesn't get better, I mean they have to do something."

Zimmerman had been the team's most reliable anchor, playing almost every day since being installed as the regular third baseman in 2006. When he sat out May 4, it ended a streak of 205 consecutive games played. This will be the first trip to the disabled list in his career.

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