Nationals slugger Ryan Zimmerman (hamstring) headed to Florida for instructional league games



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Washington Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman prepares to take batting practice before a baseball game at Nationals Park, Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, in Washington. Zimmerman has been on the disabled list and this is one of the first times he has taken batting practice. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)


NEW YORK — Washington Nationals slugger Ryan Zimmerman, attempting to return from a hamstring injury before the regular season ends, plans to leave Sunday for the instructional league so he can begin playing in games.

Zimmerman has been sidelined since straining his right hamstring July 22 in Colorado.

Nationals manager Matt Williams said Zimmerman wasn't able to work out much Saturday because of the rain in New York. But he's tentatively scheduled for a workout day Monday in Florida, and the team hopes Zimmerman can start playing in simulated games Tuesday.

"That's kind of the tentative plan. It all depends on how he comes out of the workouts and all the tests," Williams said.

If all goes well, that could put Zimmerman on target to rejoin the Nationals during the final week of the season. Washington is closing in on its second NL East title in three years and would love to have him available for a potential playoff run.

"Of course we want him to contribute for us and be a part of it. And ultimately, could be a real important part of it," Williams said.

Finding the right spot in the field would be another matter.

Zimmerman won a Gold Glove at third base in 2009, but injuries and throwing problems prompted the Nationals to move him to left field for 26 games this season. He also made four appearances at first base, including one start.

Williams said Zimmerman will play the outfield and both corner infield spots in the instructional league. He will lead off every inning at times in order to get him as many at-bats as needed.

"All of those things will test the hamstring in different ways. So once he gets through those first few days, we'll have a better assessment," Williams said. "Once he passes that, and everybody including him feels like he's ready to go, then we need to get him back here and get him in some games and let him play. It takes a while to get your stroke back. He's been out a long time and it's important for him to get those at-bats. And if they happen to be here, it's great. We need him."

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