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Surgery may make Zimmermann stronger

Surgery may make Zimmermann stronger

ATLANTA -- The MRIs of Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann's pitching elbow have now been seen by several physicians, and it appears that the prognosis remains disheartening for the young right-hander, who faces Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery.

Noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews viewed the MRI in Birmingham, Ala., and confirmed the team's original diagnosis of a torn ulnar collateral ligament. The Nationals will get a third opinion from Dr. Lewis Yocum in Southern California, but there isn't much hope for happier news.

It's understandable that learning you won't be pitching for 12-18 months would be devastating news for a young pitcher enjoying a fine rookie campaign. However, Zimmermann's manager is trying to look at the situation through the most positive lens possible.

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"Jordan got results from two doctors, and he'll get another opinion from Dr. Yocum in Los Angeles," said Nationals interim manager Jim Riggleman. "It looks like he'll have the ligament reconstruction surgery. The upside is that it seems like doctors have perfected the treatment for it by now. He's young, and we hope he can make a full recovery. There is a chance Dr. Yocum could see something different, but we're not counting on that."

Zimmermann didn't make the trip with the team to Atlanta, but Riggleman said he spoke with the 23-year-old rookie recently.

"He was very upset," Riggleman said. "It's unfortunate, but that's where we're at."

The prognosis for return from Tommy John surgery is typically 12-18 months, meaning Zimmermann could return anywhere from this time next season to the beginning of the 2011 season.

Riggleman pointed out that many pitchers have undergone the surgery and made full recoveries. He hopes the same will be the case with Zimmermann.

"It seems like so many pitchers go through it now," Riggleman said. "I've found myself commenting on how good another team's pitcher looks, and then someone mentions they just came back from Tommy John. It seems like two out of five pitchers on every rotation have had it."

Zimmermann got off to a fast start in his rookie season, winning his first two starts and compiling a 3-5 overall record with a 4.63 ERA and a team-high 93 strikeouts. He has been replaced in the rotation by Collin Balester.

Adam Rosenberg is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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