PITTSBURGH — Just as they welcomed back one veteran from injury, the Nationals lost another one for the weekend, forcing Davey Johnson once again to reconfigure his lineup for the opener of a three-game series with the Pirates.
Ryan Zimmerman was officially activated off the 15-day disabled list Friday afternoon, but Jayson Werth's hamstring remains tweaked enough that he'll have to miss all three games at PNC Park.
"Hopefully it's going to come along, and he'll be ready when we get home," Johnson said, speculating Werth could return Tuesday for the start of a home interleague series with the Tigers.
Johnson reiterated that Werth's hamstring injury won't require a DL stint, unlike Zimmerman and Wilson Ramos (who each missed 15 days with a similar ailment). In Werth's case, the hamstring is tight but not pulled, according to Johnson.
With Werth sidelined, Johnson had to reach into his bag of tricks to come up with Friday night's lineup. He settled on Ian Desmond as his No. 2 hitter, citing the shortstop's ability both to produce at the plate and break up the left-handed Denard Span and Bryce Harper at the top of the Nationals' lineup. It's the third different place Desmond has hit in three days (he hit cleanup on Wednesday, fifth on Thursday).
Though he's had to tinker with a few spots in his lineup, Johnson at least is relieved to know he won't have to think about who's going to his cleanup every day with Zimmerman now healthy.
Zimmerman appeared in only one rehab game with Class A Potomac, going 0-for-3 and playing six innings at third base on Wednesday, but he's confident he can jump back into the fray because he was able to hit and throw during most of his two weeks on the DL.
"Obviously, it was good to get into one game and see some pitches," he said. "But the hitting stuff has always been pretty quick for me. To be able to keep throwing and taking groundballs and to only miss really three days of doing nothing made it a lot easier to come back quicker."
This marked the third consecutive season in which Zimmerman has gone on the DL in April. (He tore an abdominal muscle in 2011 and missed two weeks with a sprained shoulder last year.)
As frustrating as it's been for him, Zimmerman doesn't believe he could have prevented these early season injuries.
"My body has felt great every single year," he said. "I've done the same thing in the offseason that I've done in the past. It's just a matter of playing games. I think the more games you play, unfortunately the more apt you are to get hurt. That's just kind of how it is in any sport. That's why the guys who play 155-160 games every year for 10, 12, 15 years are so incredible. I don't think people understand or give them enough credit for doing things like that.
"It's part of it. Unfortunately, the last three years or so, it's kind of got me a little bit. Hopefully after this, for the next 8-10 years, however long I play, hopefully we won't have to talk about it."