(Evan Vucci/AP)

At first, Zimmerman was hoping to return for the Nationals’ showcase game against rival Philadelphia Phillies on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball.” But Johnson said his star third baseman was likely guessing how soon he could come back and cautioned against having him return too soon. Johnson said Zimmerman would be evaluated after he swings on Friday.

“I could use his bat but I don’t want it for three or four days and then have a problem with it,” Johnson said. “If that’s missing a couple more games, so be it.”

During warm-ups on Wednesday, Zimmerman took balls at third base – fielding them and throwing across the diamond as normal. “He looks great fielding the ball, throwing,” Johnson said.

Zimmerman sustained the injury while making a series of dives at third base and a head-first dive into home plate – his typical style of play. He last played in the Nationals’ 2-0 win over the Miami Marlins on April 20.

Asked if Zimmerman would need rehab starts before his return, Johnson’s answer further proved the team is desperate need for an offensive spark.

“Not to me,” he said. “I’ll take him cold turkey.”