Ryan Zimmerman could be back sometime in September. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

Ryan Zimmerman has been out about a month with a Grade 3 hamstring strain and Manager Matt Williams said he expects the veteran’s return is “still going to be awhile.” Williams then added that he hopes that Zimmerman will be back next month.

Asked for his best guess Wednesday, Williams said he believed Zimmerman would return “sometime in September.”

“When? I don’t know, but sometime in September,” Williams said. “I don’t think anything would happen until after [Sept. 1] because he still hasn’t gone [through] the full gamut of tests. And then he would have to have some time to play.”

In the past, Williams has said he hoped Zimmerman, who landed on the disabled list on July 23, would be back before the end of the regular season. (General Manager Mike Rizzo declined to comment earlier this month when asked the same question.) But Williams’s comments Wednesday had a tinge of confidence.

Grade 3 is the most severe hamstring strain, meaning Zimmerman suffered a tear in the leg muscle. Zimmerman’s hamstring, however, is not completely torn. The Nationals have hoped that the muscle responds well to treatment and strengthening. Zimmerman has been using an anti-gravity treadmill that lightens the strain on the legs. Zimmerman has not been doing any baseball activities.

“The last thing we want is for him to go to early and really do something bad to it,” Williams said. “So we have to sure when he comes back that he’s ready, that there are no limitations, and he can go score from first and play defense and do all the things that he does really well.”

Earlier this month, Rizzo said Zimmerman would be out six weeks, which would mean he could be back in early to mid-September. Williams said there’s no clearer idea now given the desire not to rush Zimmerman’s healing leg muscle. If Zimmerman is ready for game action by early to mid September, the Nationals will have to find playing time for him.

The minor league regular season ends mostly in the first week of September. The instructional league in Florida begins on September 13, Williams said.

If Zimmerman isn’t ready to begin a rehab assignment by then, “then we’ll arrange to have simulated games for him to play in in all aspects, whether it’s batters, fielding balls or being in the outfield or being at third or any of that,” Williams said. “We’ll put him through the whole schmear and make sure he’s ready to go.”

>>> Outfielder Steven Souza Jr. said he could begin a minor league rehab assignment as soon as Thursday depending on how he feels following batting practice on Wednesday. Souza has been dealing with inflammation in his AC joint after he smashed into the right field wall at Turner Field on August 8. He is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list on August 25.