Apr 13, 2014, 1:11 PM EST
ATLANTA — Ryan Zimmerman and Denard Span provided updates on their respective injuries Sunday morning, each maintaining upbeat spirits after getting hurt on freak plays over the weekend.
Zimmerman, who fractured his right thumb diving back into second base while getting picked off Saturday night, was wearing a splint and will be examined Monday by a specialist at the Cleveland Clinic and is hopeful he won’t need surgery.
“They say it looks good,” the third baseman said. “I’m going to go see the hand guy in [Cleveland] tomorrow, just kind of as a precaution. The doctor here said it looked fine.”
Zimmerman said he didn’t realize the extent of the injury immediately, believing at first he had broken only the fingernail on his right thumb after slamming hard into the base. He quickly recognized it was more severe than that and slowly made his way off the field, his right arm motionless.
“I thought just my nail had bent back, because the nail was black and blue and bleeding, like when you catch it on something,” he said. “But it was the whole thumb that was bent back, not just the nail. It stinks, but it happens. It was just a freak accident. There’s nothing you can really do.”
General manager Mike Rizzo said the X-ray showed a “clean fracture,” but the club won’t know a precise course of action until Monday’s examination. For now, the Nationals say Zimmerman will miss 4-to-6 weeks.
Span, meanwhile, made his first appearance in the clubhouse since his scary collision with Braves second baseman Dan Uggla during Friday night’s game. The center fielder, who missed significant time with a concussion in 2011, was placed on the 7-day concussion DL but said Sunday he is feeling well and believes he’ll be return to return as soon as he’s eligible.
“I feel OK. I feel fine,” he said. “If I had to play today, I could play. I understand with my history that it was best for me to go on the 7-day DL to be safe. So we went ahead to think about the rest of the season and the rest of my life.”
Span said he felt dazed but not seriously injured right after the collision, passing an on-field test performed by assistant athletic trainer Steve Gober and then another test performed in the dugout by head athletic trainer Lee Kuntz. It was a follow-up exam Saturday with the Braves’ team doctor that prompted the decision to place him on the DL with concussion symptoms.
“I was feeling the pressure in my head from the collision a couple innings later,” Span said. “I was able to finish the game. I remember when it happened, [in 2011] when I had it, I finished the game off, but the rest of the game was a blur. Even my last at-bat against Luis Avilan [on Friday], I felt like I was into the at-bat. And I had a good at-bat. That was encouraging for me.”
Rizzo said Span will travel with the club to Miami, where he’ll be examined again and participate in non-baseball activities. A further course of action will be determined after that.
Span, who spent Saturday relaxing in his Atlanta hotel room with the lights turned off, feels he’s better-equipped to deal with this concussion having already been through the process three years ago.
“We’re a little bit more educated on concussions in 2014, as opposed to 2011,” he said. “It definitely lingers on. I’m going to be a bit smarter this time and use what happened last time as a learning experience, and hopefully I’m going to be out there soon. I’m not going to rush it. I’m going to be honest with myself and listen to my body and listen to my brain and just go from there.”
This weekend’s injuries only add to the Nationals’ early season health woes. Right-hander Doug Fister landed on the DL on the final day of spring training with a strained lat muscle. Catcher Wilson Ramos broke a bone in his left hand on Opening Day and is out until at least early-May. Outfielder Scott Hairston strained an oblique muscle last week. Right fielder Jayson Werth strained a groin muscle late in Friday night’s game but was back in the lineup Sunday.
The organization has had to dig deep into its farm system already. Infielder Zach Walters became the latest call-up from Class AAA Syracuse, taking Zimmerman’s roster spot. Walters joins catcher Sandy Leon, outfielder Steven Souza Jr., first baseman/outfielder Tyler Moore and reliever Blake Treinen as additions to the Nationals’ big-league roster in the last two weeks alone.
Rizzo doesn’t expect any sympathy from outsiders.
“Nobody cares,” the GM said. “The rest of the league doesn’t care. We’re just trying to work our way through it. We’ve got a game every day. That’s the one thing about baseball: The everyday-ness of it is what really separates the sport. We’ve got to go out there. That’s why we have 40-man rosters. That’s why we have minor-league systems. Injuries happen. You have to prepare for them. We think we’re well-prepared and well-positioned to handle them. We’ve got games to play and games to win.”
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