WASHINGTON — Working his way back after a long injury absence, Ryan Zimmerman was out of the Washington Nationals' starting lineup Tuesday night against the New York Mets.
With less than a week left in the regular season, Zimmerman originally was supposed to play third base Tuesday for the NL East champions as he comes back after missing 55 games because of a strained right hamstring. But manager Matt Williams said Zimmerman's leg was sore after he played Saturday, his only game back so far since coming off the disabled list.
Zimmerman did make a pinch-hitting appearance Tuesday, popping out to first base in the seventh inning.
"When he scored the other night, he pushed it beyond where he's pushed it. And after the game, he said, 'You know what? It's a little bit sore.' So we gave him Sunday, we gave him yesterday, and I can't run him out there without putting him through some tests," Williams said before Tuesday's game.
"I don't want to just throw him back in there and have it be not right," Williams added. "The plan was for him to play again today, but since he was a little bit sore, we're being cautious."
Williams also said the side of right-hander Jordan Zimmermann's pitching shoulder is bruised after getting hit by a batted ball in his previous start, but he isn't expected to miss an outing because of it.
Zimmerman, who also missed 44 games from April to June because of a broken right thumb, entered Tuesday having played in only 54 games in 2014. He has spent time at third base — the position at which he was an NL All-Star and Gold Glove recipient in 2009 — as well as left field and first base, while batting .288 with five homers and 37 RBIs.
"It's been a long and frustrating year for me, personally," Zimmerman said. "I know the team has been playing great, but nobody wants to be hurt and not be able to play."
When the Nationals clinched their division title, last week in Atlanta, Zimmerman was still on a rehab assignment in Florida. He rejoined the club for its next series, at Miami.
"To be out there and it's you vs. the pitcher, trying to get that hit in a big spot — those are the situations we love and that's why we play the game," Zimmerman said. "To not be able to do that for the majority of the year, it killed me a little bit."
He said he's not sure what sort of action he will get a chance to see before the postseason — or what his workload will be once the playoff games start.
"We'll find out this week what I can do and what I can't do. Then we'll figure out what my role is going forward. Nobody really knows," Zimmerman said. "Matt doesn't know, I don't know, (general manager Mike Rizzo) doesn't know. That's kind of the reason why we tried to get back to this point so quickly, so we can somewhat assess the situation and see what we have."
Said Williams: "We'll try to get him in situations where we can monitor (him) and let him get back into playing shape. It's like spring training for him."
Notes: Williams said the team has not decided which pitcher will start Game 1 of the NL division series. "It's way too early," he said. "We are having dialogue about it, and there's going to be some really late nights here in the next three or four days."
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