Nats 3B Zimmerman expected to miss rest of season

Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman probably will miss the

rest of the season because of an injured rib muscle on his right

side that’s sidelined him since last week.

Zimmerman was out of the lineup for Washington’s game against

the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday night, his fifth consecutive

day off. After Monday, the last-place Nationals will have five

games remaining.

”I’m not counting on him playing through the rest of the

season,” manager Jim Riggleman said before Monday’s game. ”If he

were to say, ‘You know what? I feel great. Let me take some batting

practice.’ … I guess we would consider it, but I don’t anticipate

that happening.”

Zimmerman himself didn’t want to absolutely rule out the

possibility that he could appear again in 2010, although he did say

he only will play if he’s pain-free.

”I wouldn’t say it’s all the way done yet,” he said.

”Obviously, I’m working every day to rehab and see if I can get

back out there. But we’re just being cautious. We don’t want to

come back and come back a little too soon and hurt it even

worse.”

He also noted that given ”the circumstances that we’re under”

– the Nationals are assured of a fifth bottom-of-the-division

finish in their six seasons in Washington – ”there’s really no

reason to go out there or take pain medicine or do something like

that to play. So for me to get out there and play, (it) would have

to be 100 percent better with no risk to hurt it more.”

Zimmerman, who turns 26 on Tuesday, leads the Nationals with a

.307 batting average and is second on the team with a .388 on-base

percentage, 25 homers and 85 RBIs. His previous best batting

average for a full major league season was .292 in 2009.

His last homer came Aug. 30, and that was his only one after

Aug. 15 this season, but he didn’t blame his injury for that

drought.

”I wouldn’t say it affected it to the point where that’s why I

didn’t hit a home run. I felt it a little bit, but no more than

anyone else is feeling things like that,” the 2009 NL All-Star

said. ”I was still getting my hits and being productive at the

plate, but just hadn’t hit any homers.”

Zimmerman can’t pinpoint a particular play on which he got hurt

and attributed it mainly to wear and tear.

One reason to sit out the rest of the way: making sure the

problem doesn’t get any worse heading into the offseason.

”You don’t want to go back and hurt it more and then spend your

first month rehabbing an injury that you could have avoided,”

Zimmerman said. ”I take a couple weeks off, but then after that,

it’s full go, getting ready for the next season. So it’s a 3-, 3

1/2-month process that a lot of us do to get ready for the next

season and you wouldn’t want to postpone the routine that I’ve

gotten in, because the last couple years, I think what I’ve done in

the offseason has been vital for the success that I’ve had on the

field.”