Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman refused to use lingering right shoulder pain as an excuse when he was struggling at the plate last month. He repeatedly said he felt fine despite mounting evidence that he really didn't -- including a batting average that dipped to .218 after a game in Baltimore on June 23.
He still looks good in the field at third base, and that alone provides value. But the Nats need Zimmerman to hit like himself at the plate, too, if they want to hold on to their National League East lead. After a cortisone shot on June 24, they are starting to see that guy again.
In the last eight games entering a homestand that begins Tuesday against San Francisco, Zimmerman batted 14-for-37 with four doubles, three home runs and 13 RBIs. It took him 29 games before the cortisone shot to equal those seven recent extra-base hits, and only two of those were home runs.
But are cortisone shots a lasting solution? Zimmerman told reporters on the latest road trip that he figures to feel better until the All-Star break, which begins at the end of this week. Once the effects of the shot begin to wane, the team will re-evaluate his status. Surgery seems inevitable after the season to clean out the bone chips that are likely causing the inflammation of his AC joint.
For now, Zimmerman and the Nats hope his current tear lasts until September -- and maybe beyond if they make the playoffs. If it doesn't? He may need another stint on the disabled list at some point during the second half of the season to rest the injury for the stretch run.
- Brian McNally