Monday, September 27, 2010, 6:15 p.m.
By Mark Zuckerman
Though he's still holding out hope that his strained ribcage muscle might heal in the next few days, Ryan Zimmerman most likely won't return to play for the Washington Nationals before season's end.
Zimmerman, who was out of the Nationals' lineup Monday for the fifth straight day, seems resigned to the fact he won't have enough time to heal.
"It's frustrating," he said. "You always want to finish the season. We've been together the whole time, and we've been through some tough times. Obviously you want to finish with these guys. It's tough."
Zimmerman can't pinpoint one moment when he injured his right ribcage. He said it had been nagging him for a while but didn't get to the point it was clearly affecting his play until last Wednesday. He hasn't been in the Nationals' lineup since.
The strain isn't considered serious, but there's a fear of it becoming something far worse if Zimmerman tried to play through it.
"It's such a tenuous area there," manager Jim Riggleman said. "When you swing the bat, you rotate your trunk like that, and that's where the injury is. It really just seems like it's going to be pretty iffy if we put him out there, the odds of him not tweaking it. So I'm not counting on him playing through the rest of the season."
A more serious rib injury at this point could throw Zimmerman's offseason routine out of whack and leave him behind the 8-ball heading into spring training. He said he noticed a difference in that department during the 2007-08 offseason, when he needed wrist surgery.
"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," he said. "Obviously, I take a couple weeks off, but then after that, it's full-go and get ready for the next season. It's a 3 12-month process that a lot of us do to get ready for the next season. You don't want to postpone the routine that I've gotten into, 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."
If Zimmerman doesn't return this season, his final stat line will include 25 homers, 85 RBI and career highs in batting average (.307), on-base percentage (.388) and OPS (.899). He also continued to play stellar defense and put himself in line to earn his second straight Gold Glove award.