Cleared for baseball activities on Monday, Ryan Zimmerman took live batting practice for the first time in over six weeks before the Nationals' game against the Marlins on Wednesday.
Zimmerman took hacks as part of a group for about 20 minutes and also participated in team infield practice at first base. He practiced fielding groundballs, scooping throws from across the diamond and throwing from first to second.
Afterwards, Zimmerman said his right thumb - which was fractured on April 12 in Atlanta - felt fine. There was mild soreness, but nothing more than should be expected at this stage of his recovery.
"It felt good," Zimmerman said. "You gotta do that for a few days to get in shape. Make sure that you can go out and take BP every day, and do your work without getting tired or do that you don't do something to your back or oblique. Last two days and then the next couple days, we'll reassess it and go from there."
Zimmerman had former teammate Livan Hernandez pitching to him from an L-screen at Nationals Park. Manager Matt Williams and GM Mike Rizzo watched from behind the cage as Zimmerman took swings. He looked strong and showed some power with several home runs. One reached the last row of red seats in center field, another cleared the visitors bullpen in left field and another reached several rows past the out of town scoreboard in right.
Zimmerman hopes to intensify his batting practice sessions in the coming days to work through the soreness that comes with not swinging a bat in over a month.
"When you first come to spring training is what it feels like. The first couple of days you'll be sore and then from there it usually starts to taper down and wear off," he said.
"That's really all you need to get it going on a consistent basis and feel in shape so it's not going through a bunch of soreness when I'm back playing. That's kind of my goal."
Williams called Wednesday a "big step" for Zimmerman, but was still cautious to give any sort of timeline for his return. Zimmerman has been out for nearly seven weeks now after his original diagnosis suggested a return in four to six weeks. With the way his recovery has progressed, the Nationals are continuing to be careful.
"What we don't want is a setback," Williams said. "Can you imagine pushing him too fast, and him going out on a rehab assignment and pulling a muscle? That's what we don't want. When we get him back we want him back for the rest of the season."
Zimmerman was practicing at first base on Wednesday and has been seen working in left field in recent weeks. When asked what position he may play when he returns to the Nats, Zimmerman gave an open-ended answer.
"I feel comfortable wherever it makes sense for me to help the team win," he said.
"I'm not sure if I could pitch or catch, but I feel like I could play pretty much anywhere else on the baseball field and not look out of place. I take pride in being a pretty good athlete and taking care of myself. I think I've played the game long enough where I could sort of fit in anywhere."