WASHINGTON -- On Wednesday afternoon, Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman fielded ground balls and took batting practice for the first time since fracturing his right thumb against the Braves on April 12.
Zimmerman spent the entire fielding session at first base. He started by taking ground balls and making throws to second base before practicing scoops.
After that, Zimmerman concluded his workout with batting practice. Nationals ambassador and former Major League right-hander Livan Hernandez pitched the session.
Zimmerman also threw from around 120 feet. Depending on how he feels on Thursday, Zimmerman said he plans on stretching out to 150 feet.
"It felt good," Zimmerman said. "I think you've got to do that for a couple days to get in shape, make sure that you can go out and take BP every day and do your work without getting tired or without doing something to your back or your oblique. And that's kind of the point of these last two days and the next couple days."
Zimmerman said he could feel a little pain in his thumb during batting practice, but nothing substantial enough to prevent him from completing a full workout and swinging the bat the way he wants.
The third baseman sprayed a number of home runs to all fields, including a blast at the end of the session that landed several rows into the red seats in left-center field. Zimmerman said he "really got after it" in the weight room for around four or five weeks while he was injured because it was all he could do.
"I'm probably stronger than I was before," Zimmerman said. "So I'm not too worried about the strength, it's just more about being able to repeat the swing and swing like I normally swing before it happened."
Zimmerman related his return from injury to arriving at Spring Training. In both instances, he went an extended period of time without fielding, throwing or swinging, and experiencing soreness is part of the process.
"The first two or three days you swing, it's going to be sore," Zimmerman said. "From there, it usually starts to taper down and ware off."
Manager Matt Williams said he thought Zimmerman's timing was a little off, but that's typical from someone who hasn't seen live pitching in several weeks. More importantly, Zimmerman went through the workout with little-to-no pain despite hitting a ball off the end of the bat when Hernandez threw a curveball.
Williams wouldn't rule out a Minor League rehab stint in the near future. But he said the crucial thing is making sure Zimmerman is 100 percent healthy for the remainder of the 2014 season.
"Can you imagine pushing too fast and having him go out on a rehab assignment and pulling muscle?" Williams said. "That's what we don't want. When we get him back, we want him back for the rest of the season. So we're not going to push him too hard in that regard."
Zimmerman has worn a thumb guard during his career, and he will continue to do so when he returns from injury. He said he wore the guard during batting practice on Wednesday and didn't experience any problems.
"It all depends how I feel in the next day or two," Zimmerman said. "And we'll go from there."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. Daniel Popper is an associate reporter for MLB.com. He also can be found on Twitter @danielrpopper. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.