WASHINGTON -- With one out in the bottom of the 11th inning and the Nationals down, 4-3, to the Brewers, Washington manager Manny Acta decided to have catcher Wil Nieves pinch-hit for reliever Saul Rivera.
Why wasn't third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who didn't start the game, used to pinch-hit instead? It turns out Zimmerman wasn't able to play because his left shoulder is worse than what had been reported recently.
In fact, Zimmerman didn't take batting practice on Sunday morning, and team doctors recommended he take the day off. There isn't a guarantee Zimmerman will play against the Padres in San Diego on Tuesday. So far, an MRI has not been scheduled.
"We have to check on him when he gets to San Diego and see how he feels after he takes batting practice," Acta said.
Zimmerman said he doesn't expect the shoulder to feel better in one day. Asked how tough it was to watch Sunday's extra-inning game knowing he could have made a difference, Zimmerman said, "Of course I want to be out there, but it doesn't mean I don't have confidence in Wil. He has had a couple of big hits for us already. I have all the confidence in the world in my teammates."
Zimmerman has been playing more than a week with the sore left shoulder. He hurt it on May 18 against the Orioles. The news first was reported on Saturday by catcher Paul Lo Duca, who made a guest appearance on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network.
"It wasn't that bad. ... It's not worse, where I couldn't play, but there is no reason to push it now," Zimmerman said. "If I have to take a couple of days off and get it all the way better, there is no reason to try to gut it out in May. It just makes sense.
"Let's see how it feels [Tuesday] and re-evaluate it. If it feels good enough to play, then I will play. If not, I'll take a couple of more days off and get it better and be ready for the rest of the season."
Nationals outfielder Wily Mo Pena also has a sore left shoulder, but it's not serious enough to have him miss games.
"My shoulder is OK," Pena said after the game. "I'm always doing my exercises. Sometimes when I swing too much, it bothers me. But I do my exercises, have a little ice [on the shoulder] and everything is OK."
Pena, who has a .218 batting average this season, said he is feeling more comfortable at the plate and was happy to finally hit his first home run of the season this past weekend.
"The last couple of games, I've been hitting the ball hard and straight at somebody," he said. "Sometimes I get a hit."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.