(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Ryan Zimmerman will begin a rehab assignment Friday night at Class A Potomac, accelerating his return to a Washington Nationals lineup sorely lacking his powerful right-handed bat.

Because Zimmerman has been able to work out and condition as his broken thumb healed, he will not require an extended rehab assignment. Monday night, when the Nationals have an off day, Manager Matt Williams plans to watch Zimmerman play. If Zimmerman feels and looks strong, he could play for the Nationals on Tuesday.

“A player is never going to tell you the truth, ever,” Williams said. “So it’s good to see him, and see what his timing looks like. But he doesn’t take long to get ready. We want to make sure that it’s long-term for the rest of the season.”

About a Tuesday return for Zimmerman, Williams said, “that’s possible. It’s awfully early, though. Just a few games being off that long, it’s difficult. But we’ll see. We’ll see how it goes.”

Zimmerman will bat third and serve as Potomac’s designated hitter, according to Potomac’s Twitter feed, and so he will not make his professional debut at either left field or first base just yet. Williams said Zimmerman would play both left field and first base before he finishes his rehab assignment. “We’ll get there,” Williams said.

Zimmerman has missed 41 games since he broke his right thumb while diving back into second base in Atlanta, and the Nationals have gone 18-23 in those games. They will not be without him much longer. The Nationals have not set a specific timetable for Zimmerman’s return, but as General Manager Mike Rizzo noted Wednesday, Zimmerman has never required much time to regain his feel at the plate, either in spring training or coming back from the disabled list.

“He’s always quick to return, getting his timing and his eye back,” Rizzo said.

Zimmerman’s timetable sped up Wednesday, when he took a full workout at Nationals Park, including his first live batting practice. Zimmerman had been participating in outfield drills in left for two weeks. Wednesday, he fielded grounders at first base. Thursday, he planned to take grounders at third base.

“It’s not like he’s got to get really back into running shape,” Williams said. “It’s a question of his timing and feeling good at the plate and seeing some live pitching. Is he close? Yeah. I think he’s close.”

At the time Zimmerman went on the disabled list, he was hitting .364 with a 1.042 OPS. He had recently missed time to rest his chronic, inflamed right shoulder, which has quickened a potential position shift. Zimmerman could not throw for six weeks as his thumb healed, but has said that the time off will not do anything to help his shoulder.

“I don’t know if my shoulder can really be helped by not throwing,” Zimmerman said two weeks ago. “It’s not like it’s a rotator or a labrum or a muscle. It’s different issues than that. Maybe. Maybe it’ll be a magic five weeks.”