Everything according to plan in Zim's spring 1B debut

First start in field part of timetable conceived by medical staff, Baker and longtime Nat

Everything according to plan in Zim's spring 1B debut

JUPITER, Fla. -- The Nationals developed a plan this spring to ease Ryan Zimmerman, who missed more than a month last season with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, into game action.

That meant taking it slowly running the bases during workouts. He missed the first 11 Grapefruit League games before making his debut Sunday as a designated hitter. If making his spring debut at first base during Wednesday's 4-2 victory against the Marlins seemed like a significant step in the process, it was lost on Zimmerman, who played five innings in the field and went 1-for-3 at the plate.

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"It was just kind of the timetable we mapped out," he said. "It was just get out there and go. I'll be ready to play some more after this."

Plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the tissue that connects the heel to the toes, is a lingering condition that the Nationals and Zimmerman will have to monitor. That means limiting unnecessary time in cleats on dirt in order to prevent extra wear and tear on the foot. Plus Zimmerman has stated in the past that he does not need many at-bats during Spring Training to get ready for the start of the season.

The Nationals overhauled their medical staff this offseason with the goal to focus efforts more on injury prevention, using modern analytics to drive a proactive rather than a reactive approach. That staff, along with manager Dusty Baker and Zimmerman, formulated a plan to best prepare Zimmerman for the start of the season.

"Nothing crazy. Just staying on top of things, doing maintenance," Zimmerman said. "It's not a crazy program or anything like that. I'm just managing it, just like probably a ton of people do on every team for other things than what I have."

Baker plans to slowly build Zimmerman's endurance up during the final few weeks of Spring Training, increasing his number of innings in the field and at-bats almost like a pitcher. Zimmerman is expected to play Thursday as the designated hitter.

"We had a plan from the beginning, and he hadn't had any setbacks, which makes it nice," Baker said. "This is the thing that we didn't want any setbacks, any kind of setbacks."

Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.