Ryan Zimmerman, the Nationals’ best player who has missed all but the season’s first eight games, will bat third and play five innings at third base Sunday for the Hagerstown Suns in his first minor league rehab start, Manager Brian Daubach said.

“The plan is that he’s going to play five innings today and reevaluate after the game,” Daubach said. “And hopefully he keeps making progress but he’s getting close.”

Zimmerman spent more than a week in extended spring training in Viera, Fla., playing four innings at third base on Friday and going 0 for 4. He then flew to Washington and joined the Suns on Sunday morning.

Zimmerman last played April 9, when he tore an abdominal muscle sliding into second base against the New York Mets – an injury that was considered minor when it first appeared in spring training. When the injury failed to improve, Zimmerman and the Nationals sought out a specialist, who performed surgery on May 3.

In a glimpse of the lineup to come for the Nationals, the third baseman will bat third with the team’s megaprospect Bryce Harper, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 MLB draft, batting cleanup.

“It should be exciting,” Daubach said. “Hopefully it’s a good look at the future of the Nationals and we’ll see how it looks, hitting three and four. And I’m sure we’ll have a lot of fans here. And anytime you have a guy on a big league rehab the guys are excited to have a big leaguer around.”

Before and during batting practice, Zimmerman and Harper chatted. Harper, who has torn through the South Atlantic League with a .338 batting average and team-high 13 home runs, alternated hitting with Zimmerman.

The 18-year old prospect showed more power, smacking six batting practice home runs, half of them to the opposite field. Zimmerman looked fairly comfortable in the batting cage, displaying less power (only one home run) but spraying his hits around the field.