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Reliever Cole Kimball was in the Nationals’ clubhouse today, just not in the capacity he had hoped back in spring training. Kimball believed he could return from the rotator cuff surgery he underwent in July 2011 and reach the major this season. But at this point he is still only throwing bullpen sessions.

“Just slow playing it, taking care of it,” Kimball said. “Everything has been good.”

Kimball had come to Nationals Park just to throw a bullpen session in front of Nationals officials before heading back down to Viera, Fla. for the instructional league, where his comeback will continue.

Rehabbing from a rotator cuff injury is one of the toughest things a pitcher can do, especially one with a max-effort, violent delivery like Kimball. While Kimball wanted to get back this year, it’s not a complete surprise he never reached a big league mound.

Kimball made it to a minor league mound this year, throwing short rehab outings in Hagerstown, Potomac and Harrisburg. His final appearance came July 3, when he recorded only one out at Harrisburg. The starts and stops are typical for a recovery from rotator cuff surgery.

“The way I feel right now, it’s all been worth it,” Kimball said. “I don’t need heat. I don’t need ice. I don’t need any Aleve or anything. It feels like I never got hurt, so it’s great. I feel really, really healthy right now.”

Kimball made his major league debut in May 2011 and pitched in 12 games before he admitted to Nationals trainers he had pain in his shoulder. He posted a 1.93 ERA with 11 strikeouts in 14 innings.