ATLANTA -- Ryan Zimmerman played five innings in a simulated game without any problems on Wednesday. He played two innings at third base, three innings at first and passed the test as far as running the bases were concerned. Zimmerman, working his way back to the Nationals from a Grade 3 hamstring strain, had four hits in eight at-bats.
"He hit the ball all over the field, lined out to first, hit a double to left-center, a couple of singles. He ran the bases fine, so he had a good day. He had a really heavy workday today," Nationals manager Matt Williams said.
On Thursday, Zimmerman is scheduled to be a designated hitter. He could have 10 at-bats during the game. Then Zimmerman is expected to play seven innings in left field on Friday.
"He has to go get the ball," Williams said. "If the ball is hit in the gap, he has to go get it. That's part of the testing. That's probably the final test. He has passed the baserunning stuff. He is moving fine. He has played the infield. His legs are OK. To get him back in the outfield is important, and then we will make a decision."
When Zimmerman returns to the Nationals, Williams gave a strong indication that Zimmerman would play often, not come off the bench. A couple of weeks ago, Williams said Zimmerman would see action at third base, first base and left field.
"I would anticipate him playing pretty regularly," Williams said. "He is going to have at-bats. So if we get to the end of the season, we have to make decision on something, then we have to get him rhythm, timing and make sure his legs are OK, and all of that. I'm anticipating him getting a lot of at-bats here. It's going to be a challenge to find spots for them."
With Zimmerman back, setting up the playoff roster will be tough for Williams. Who will sit on the bench once Zimmerman returns? If Zimmerman starts at third, Anthony Rendon most likely will play second base, while Asdrubal Cabrera would come off the bench.
"It's difficult, because there are a lot of talented guys here," Williams said. "There are questions. Zim is one of them. We have to look at it as we go. In the grand scheme of it, who wouldn't want Zim? He is a dynamic offensive force for any team. It's important for him to be part of this club."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.