Zimmerman on target for Tuesday

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Zimmerman on target for Tuesday

Ryan Zimmerman took another step toward his return from the disabled list today when the Nationals' third baseman hit 20 balls off a tee and emerged with no pain in his inflamed right shoulder.

Zimmerman will take more swing off soft-toss pitching tomorrow, then possible take a full round of batting practice before the Nationals' game against the Phillies.

Though he wouldn't entirely rule out the possibility of returning to play Sunday night once he's officially eligible, Zimmerman said he's more likely to come off the DL Tuesday for the start of a road trip in Pittsburgh.

"If I had to guess, Tuesday rather than Sunday," he said. "I wouldn't rule it out. We really won't know until tomorrow. ... After I hit, it's a matter of whether they want me to waste hits in the minor leagues or get hits in the big leagues."

Manager Davey Johnson made it clear Zimmerman won't be sent on a minor-league rehab assignment, not even for one day.

"We're not going to waste those bullets," Johnson said.

Zimmerman, who hasn't played since April 20, has been able to keep himself in shape by participating in conditioning and fielding drills. He played catch this afternoon from as far away as 200 feet.

"That helps, because I've been able to keep my arm in shape and my legs in shape," he said. "So the game's not going to be a problem. It'll be whenever I can hit, I can go."

The news isn't as encouraging on Adam LaRoche, who is out of the lineup for the second straight day with a sore right oblique muscle. The veteran first baseman, who hurt himself diving for a ball during Wednesday night's game, attempted to take some swings this afternoon and still felt a twinge in his side.

The Nationals aren't giving a formal timetable for LaRoche's return, but asked today if he thinks the first baseman will need to go on the DL, Johnson replied: "No ... I'm hoping he won't."

Gio Gonzalez shaves his luscious locks for a great cause

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Gio Gonzalez shaves his luscious locks for a great cause

Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez made a major change on Memorial Day.

Having lost two straight starts for the first time all year, Gonzalez needed to do something to get his groove back.

Instead of changing his release point, tinkering with his delivery or deciding to pitch with his left hand, Gonzalez went all in and cut off his hair.

All of it.

Gonzalez sported somewhat scruffy hair during the 2015 season and decided to grow it out, entering the 2016 season with shoulder length hair. But it's all gone now and for a good cause.

Gonzalez is donating his hair to "Locks for Love," a foundation that helps make wigs for children that loss their hair due to medical conditions.

Perhaps it's just the change Gonzalez needs to get back on track. But regardless he's showing support for those in need.

Harper hopes to continue homer streak as Nats play at Phillies

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Harper hopes to continue homer streak as Nats play at Phillies

Nats (30-21) vs. Phillies (26-24) at Citizens Bank Park

The Nats begin an 11-day road trip on Monday night with their seventh matchup of the season against the Philadelphia Phillies. They are 2-4 against the Phils with both of their wins coming on the road at CBP.

Tanner Roark (3-4, 2.71) will pitch the opener in his 11th start of the season. He's coming off two consecutive strong outings with just two earned runs allowed in 13 2/3 total innings pitched. Roark tossed seven scoreless frames with just two hits allowed against the Phillies back on April 28.

Starting for Philly will be right-hander Jeremy Hellickson (4-3, 3.97). He has faced the Nats twice this season. He went seven shutout innings in a win on April 27, but on April 15 got shelled for six runs (5 ER) in a loss.

The Nats' lineup is per usual, including Bryce Harper who has homers in six straight games (7 total) at Citizens Bank Park. If he hits one tonight he'll have the MLB record for homers in consecutive games at one ballpark.

First pitch: 7:05 p.m.
TV: MASN
Radio: 106.7 The Fan, XM 869
Starting pitchers: Nats - Tanner Roark vs. Phillies - Jeremy Hellickson

NATS

CF Ben Revere
LF Jayson Werth
RF Bryce Harper
2B Daniel Murphy
1B Ryan Zimmerman
3B Anthony Rendon
C Wilson Ramos
SS Danny Espinosa
RHP Tanner Roark

PHILLIES

CF Odubel Herrera
SS Freddy Galvis
3B Maikel Franco
1B Ryan Howard
C Carlos Ruiz
2B Cesar Hernandez
LF Tyler Goeddel
RHP Jeremy Hellickson
RF Peter Bourjos

Follow along with GameView here

State of the Nats: Turner close? Plus, Scherzer's Mount Rushmore

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State of the Nats: Turner close? Plus, Scherzer's Mount Rushmore

Team Record: 30-21

Top storylines

When will we see Trea Turner? - The Nationals are in first place in the NL East and could make a significant addition to their roster very soon. 

Waiting in Triple-A is shortstop Trea Turner, who is batting .319 through 47 games with Syracuse and is ranked the ninth-best prospect in baseball by MLB.com. He has yet to play with the Nationals this season in part due to his MLB service time clock, but as of this week, that is no longer a concern.

By keeping Turner in the minors until now, the Nationals preserved an extra year of Turner's rookie contract. The cutoff is 172 days on a 25-man roster, what is considered a full year of service time. Turner logged 45 days last year and there are 126 days remaining in the 2016 regular season. Add those two numbers up and you get 171, one day short of the full-year allotment.

Exactly when the Nats will pull the trigger to bring up Turner and whom will be affected is not clear. The obvious first place to look is at shortstop where Danny Espinosa is batting just .201/.299/.314. With his high average and impressive speed (16-for-16 in SB at Triple-A), Turner may represent an upgrade offensively, even if he takes time to adjust to the big league level. But what about defense? Espinosa remains a plus-defender at shortstop, while Turner has committed eight errors already in 44 games at Syracuse. That pace would give him 29 over a 162-game season, which is a lot.

When Turner comes up, the Nats will have to remove somebody from their bench. Stephen Drew is currently their backup infielder and is on a one-year, $3 million deal. Interestingly enough, Drew has a series of performance bonuses in his contract based on games played. If he reaches 80 games this season, for instance, he earns another $150,000. If he gets to 90 games it's another $200,000 and another $200,000 for 100. For 110 games he would get $250,000. Drew has only appeared in 27 games this season, so the extra money isn't a pressing concern for the Nats, but it is something to consider.

As far as his performance on the field goes, Drew's .157 batting average isn't doing him any favors, but he does bring value defensively with the ability to play three positions. Aside from the one time he lost a ball in the sun, he's been fairly solid at second base, third base and at shortstop.

Scherzer's Mount Rushmore - This week I spoke with Max Scherzer for a separate story, but also threw in some random questions towards the end of our conversation, including one on his favorite pitchers of all-time. Scherzer knew immediately who to highlight, as he had clearly thought of this before.

"My four favorites growing up, my Mount Rushmore, it was [Greg] Maddux, [John] Smoltz, Pedro [Martinez] and Randy Johnson. Those four, those were my guys. I loved the way Pedro went after and attacked hitters. I loved the way he threw the ball just with everything. Those were the guys I always tuned in to and made sure I always tried to find if I were ever going to a baseball game and knew they were going to throw," he said. 

"You can appreciate everything that those guys did, what made them successful and how they went after hitters and how they were all able to do it for such a long time. I think that's the thing. Anybody can have a great year, but when you start talking about longevity of a career, eight to 10 years of pitching at an elite level, that's an unbelievable feat."

NL East Standings

Offensive game of the week: Ryan Zimmerman 5/28 vs. Cardinals - 4-for-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R

Pitching line of the week: Joe Ross 5/26 vs. Cardinals - 7.0 IP, ER, 6 H, 4 SO, BB, 110 pitches (74 strikes)

Quote of the Week 

"I guess the baseball gods don't want me to wear the batting gloves right now. I went up and hit a homer and came back and cut 'em up just so guys don't come out of the trash can and grab 'em and sell 'em. It's happened before."

- Bryce Harper on cutting up his batting gloves after hitting a homer in Saturday night's loss

Tweet (or Instagram) of the Week

Road Ahead

Mon. - 7:05 p.m. at Philadelphia Phillies (Roark vs. Hellickson)
Tue. - 7:05 p.m. at Philadelphia Phillies (Ross vs. Nola)
Wed. - 7:05 p.m. at Philadelphia Phillies (Scherzer vs. Morgan)
Thu. - OFF
Fri. - 7:10 p.m. at Cincinnati Reds (Strasburg vs. Straily)
Sat. - 4:10 p.m. at Cincinnati Reds (Roark vs. Moscot)
Sun. - 1:10 p.m. at Cincinnati Reds (Ross vs. Latos)