Zimmerman is eligible to return Sunday for the Nationals’ showcase on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball.” But with an off day Monday, Zimmerman is wary of rushing back after already missing 11 games, during which the Nationals have gone 6-5.

“Unless I come out tomorrow and feel just unbelievable, feel absolutely nothing, there’d be a chance,” Zimmerman said. “But it’s kind of silly to rush. … It’s just progression. Because we’ve been so careful with it, it’d be a shame if we didn’t wait one more day and messed it up. We have an extra day Monday.”

Zimmerman’s first big test came yesterday, when he took 20 swings off a tee. He felt no pain in the inflamed joint in his right shoulder, but swung at only about 60 to 75 percent of full strength. Today was another step forward.

“Nothing hurt yesterday, but it felt better today than it did yesterday,” Zimmerman said, “Whenever you come back from something, you’re a little cautious at first. But I was swinging pretty much 100 percent today.”

In Zimmerman’s absence, Steve Lombardozzi has been the Nationals’ primary third baseman. In his last four games, Lombardozzi has gone 6 for 16 with a walk and a double, and last night he sparked the Nationals’ game-winning rally with a two-out single in the 11th.

“He’s been great,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “He’s a ballplayer. He has played like I figured he’d play. He knows how to play the game.”