VIERA, Fla. (CBSDC) - With a franchise-best 98-win season abruptly halted by a disappointing Game 5 NLDS collapse, Washington Nationals fans may equally remember the struggles of their embattled star, Ryan Zimmerman, as he fought through a shoulder injury throughout the 2012 season.
What would usually be routine ground balls for the All-Star third baseman became an exercise in futility as his ailing shoulder prevented him from finishing throws to first.
But offseason shoulder surgery and the long months to follow have afforded Zimmerman plenty of time to rehabilitate his nagging shoulder and ensure he’ll take his place in the Opening Day lineup with a clean bill of health.
“The cuff and the labrum were frayed just like every single person that’s played baseball, so they cleaned that up,” Zimmerman explained to the Junkies on 106.7 The Fan. “And it was actually my AC joint, which is like right where your collarbone comes up into your shoulder, and at some point the collarbone was jammed into that, and there was no space for it to move. So they cleaned the AC joint out and took off the end of the collarbone just to give some freeness up there.”
As much pain as he felt in 2012, when doctors took a closer look at his shoulder after the team bowed out of the playoffs, he was relieved to hear the arm injury wasn’t worst-case scenario.
“The no rotator and the no labrum was huge because if you get any of those and they have to repair any of that you’re looking at six months or more,” Zimmerman said. “So we got lucky on that fact but it feels great. I’ve been throwing. I’ll probably play in the field in a few days here.”
Being able to endure the injury to his throwing arm was the result of a lot of trial and error with the medical staff as Ryan explained; a battery of quick-fix cortisone shots that were very, very frustrating for him as a player.
“I got two at first that didn’t work. I got one on the DL in May I think, where we just tried to rest it and rehab it without anything,” Zimmerman said. “That didn’t work. Got a shot. Rested it for five days. Did the same thing. I came back and played but it didn’t work. Obviously that’s why I was hitting terribly. And then we tried one more and rested it another couple days. It didn’t work.”
Remembering back to last year, it was just after the Baltimore series in late June that Ryan’s bat came to life, but what Nats fans may not have been privy to, was just how close the situation came to reaching DEFCON One, so to speak, just days before.
“I think I even went into the training room in Baltimore and I was like ‘Listen, we have to do something. I’m an out. I’m hitting third and I’m an out. I’m not helping anyone. It’s pointless for me to be in there. We either need to try one more shot or we need to clean it up. We need to do something because I can’t play the next four months like this.’”
“What was it just weakness you felt?” Eric Bickel of the Junkies asked.
“Yea. I mean, I couldn’t get on top of anything, finish a swing. Every time it felt like it was just going like this: back-and-forth clicking,” Zimmerman said. “So that day in Baltimore, the doctor was there and he gave me one and then instead of waiting four or five days, I just went right out and played and that’s the one that worked.”
In case your fingers got confused through the literal translation, that was FOUR cortisone shots her received.
And from there his arm was flawless and the Nationals went on to hoist their first World Series trophy.
Okay, maybe not so much. But his arm is healed. Stephen’s arm is healed. Everybody’s arm is healed.
And the Nationals are primed to give it another go – albeit a fully healthy go – at bringing the first World Series title to Washington in 89 years.
Use your fingers to count the cortisone shots for yourself below…