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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."

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Nationals' Dusty Baker thinks Washington teams are positioned to win a championship this year

Nationals' Dusty Baker thinks Washington teams are positioned to win a championship this year

Nationals manager Dusty Baker is back for a second year and feeling optimistic for his Washington team. Spring training has begun in Florida and it has Baker thinking about how the Nats can create some excitement for local sports fans.

In an interview with American University’s WAMU radio station, Baker said D.C. wants to be a "city of champions.” Furthermore, he thinks it can be pulled off before the year ends.

"I came here to win a championship and you know I would love nothing more than to bring one to Washington. Washington, I didn’t know it before I got there, but it’s had a tough time getting out of the first round in a number of sports."

He projected the Nationals to bring home the next championship for the District, but he knows they have competition of late. 

"Washington Wizards are looking pretty good. I’m pulling for them first because their season ends before ours, so I’ve been really following them. The Capitals have a good thing going. I started watching the Redskins more this year.

"You know once it gets contagious in a city and you get a positive attitude throughout the city, then it transfers to the sports teams. So we want to be known as a city of champions, before the end of the year hopefully."

Baker has a reputation for bringing out the best in his teams, especially managing star players. He managed the San Francisco Giants for ten seasons before moving on to the Chicago Cubs, a team he managed for four seasons.

He's never won a World Series, but has taken a team to Game 7. He also finished third for the 2016 National League Manager of the Year award.

So, what are Baker’s steps for the Nationals to get that ultimate prize? A simple formula, really.

"I think that we’ve got to stay healthy, number one. We’re trying to fill the holes that we need to fill, and we’ve got to play," he said. "You know last year we were very close, we were one hit away or one play away or one pitch away from going to the next round against the Cubs."

While he says he came to win Washington a championship, he's also enjoying his time in the city. 

"I love D.C. Before that, San Francisco was my favorite town; that’s my home. But I tell you, D.C. is definitely in the running," he said. "I thought San Francisco had the best seafood, but man, you guys have the best seafood I think in the world."

Thanks, Dusty!

The Nationals play their first spring training game against the New York mets on Saturday.

RELATED: NATIONALS REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE

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Former Nationals outfielder admits to drinking vodka before MLB games

Former Nationals outfielder admits to drinking vodka before MLB games

When it comes to sports, we sometimes forget that the athletes we look up to are just normal people. Normal people who have a lot to prove to millions of people on a weekly basis. Former Nationals outfielder Rick Ankiel has discussed one of his human moments in an interview with 590 The Fan in St. Louis.

Ankiel admitted to drinking vodka during his plight as a pitcher. He referenced his first two starts of the 2001 season, in particular against the Arizona Diamondbacks where he allowed his anxiety to give in to alcohol to soothe him. In the previous postseason, he became the first pitcher since 1980 to throw five wild pitches in a single inning. 

It may have worked for a couple of games but Ankiel eventually realized it was only making matters worse.

Ankiel began playing in Majors at the age of 19, and has had a fluctuating career through six teams. All the while, he has kept a “never give up” mentality.

Why the sudden need to vent? Ankiel is getting up close and personal with his upcoming book, “The Phenomenon: Pressure, the Yips, and the Pitch that Changed my Life” which is co-written by sports writer Tim Brown. The book will be released on April 18.  

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