Saturday, April 30, 2011 3:22 p.m.
Updated at 4:07 p.m.
By Mark ZuckermanNationals Insider
Ryan Zimmerman will have surgery Tuesday to repair a torn abdominal muscle, a procedure that will keep the Nationals third baseman out approximately six more weeks.
Zimmerman, who has been on the disabled list for three weeks since aggravating the injury while sliding headfirst into second base, was not making progress in his attempt to return through rest and rehab. He consulted a second doctor in Philadelphia on Friday, at which point a torn rectus muscle (the six-pack in the abdomen) was diagnosed.
Surgery will take place Tuesday in Philadelphia, with specialist Bill Meyers performing. The Nationals said rehab will begin the day after surgery, and general manager Mike Rizzo said rehab should take six weeks "if all goes well."
That would put Zimmerman on target to return to the lineup in mid-June, about nine weeks removed from his last game.
"It's tough," said Zimmerman, who was hitting .357 in eight games before suffering the injury. "We went through it a couple of weeks trying to get it better. It's frustrating, but it's nice to have closure, get it fixed and get working to come back and help this team continue to play well like they have been."
The Nationals entered Saturday's game against the Giants with a 9-8 record since Zimmerman went on the DL. Rizzo said the club plans to continue with veteran backups Jerry Hairston and Alex Cora as fill-ins at third base.
"Obviously when you take your best hitter out of the lineup, you're going to have to find different ways to score runs," Rizzo said. "Nobody's going to feel sorry for us. We've got a game today, we're going to continue to play without Ryan. He's a huge part of our ballclub, but we're going to have to find ways to win games without him."
Zimmerman originally hurt himself early in spring training with what was termed an abdominal strain. He returned after only a few days off, then missed another week later in March with what was called a groin strain that, it was revealed Saturday, was related to the prior injury.
After rest, though, the 26-year-old felt well enough to begin the season and got off to a strong start, totaling 10 hits and seven walks in his first 37 plate appearances. Then, while diving headfirst into second base during the third inning at Citi Field April 9, Zimmerman apparently tore the rectus muscle. He played the rest of that game but was held out the following day and was subsequently placed on the 15-day DL.
"That one slide was the thing that tipped the scale," Nationals head trainer Lee Kuntz said.
Even after going on the DL, Zimmerman hoped to able to return through rest and rehab. He began performing some light baseball activities Tuesday, though, and was able only to play catch from a short distance and jog about 90 feet. Even then, he said the injury felt the same as before.
"It started off as a strain," he said. "When I was playing through it, it was a strain. And that's one of the reasons I thought if we continued to rehab, it would get better. You have strains a lot of times. It's just in one of those areas where unfortunately you can't really rest it and treat it like you can other parts of your body. You use that part of your body for every single thing you do every single day. It doesn't really get much rest."
Zimmerman traveled to Philadelphia Friday to get a second MRI and opinion from Meyers, who confirmed the tear and recommended surgery.
The two-time NL Silver Slugger Award winner believes it was the right decision to attempt to rehab the injury first before ultimately deciding to have surgery, even if it cost him three weeks of potential recovery time.
"Sometimes you look back and say: 'Well, if you would have done it then, you'd already be back,'" he said. "But if you would have gone through the whole rehab and everything turned out fine, then it would be a terrible idea. It's just one of those things where you have to see if your body can heal for itself. If it does, great. If not, then you go to surgery."
Mark Zuckerman also blogs about the Nationals at natsinsider.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @MarkZuckerman.