Nats will face decision on Ryan Zimmerman soon

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If you had to call one player “Mr. National,” it’d be Ryan Zimmerman. He’s only 26 years old, but the well-rounded third baseman can already claim 833 career hits and has played in all but 134 games of the franchise’s existence.

Stephen Strasburg draws headlines and Bryce Harper is certainly an intriguing raw talent, but Zimmerman is D.C. baseball. And it’s time to start thinking about paying him the big bucks.

According to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, Zimmerman has indicated that he will test the free agent waters if a contract extension can’t be reached before the end of the 2012 season. Zim is signed at $8.925 million this year, $12 million next year and $14 million in 2013. But 2014 — a season that might be realistic for the Nats’ goals of competing — carries no guaranteed salary for the third baseman.

“I’m only 26, but I feel people think that I’m 30-something,” Zimmerman said Saturday. “They forget that I was up when I was 20 years old. Basically, when I first got called up, I was a baby. I wasn’t a grown-up yet. A lot of how I’ve grown up has been influenced by D.C. culture. It’s a special place to me.”

Even as a 28-year-old or 29-year-old, Zimmerman would draw major interest on the open market. He registered a fourth-best 7.4 WAR last season and probably deserved more than the handful of MVP votes that he received. Soon enough, the Nats are going to have to make a decision about his long term value.

Jake Arrieta to return to Cubs’ rotation on Thursday

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Cubs starter Jake Arrieta has been out over two weeks with a strained right hamstring, but he’s ready to return to action. The right-hander threw a bullpen on Tuesday and it went well, so he will start in Thursday’s series opener against the Brewers in Milwaukee, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat reports.

Arrieta, 31, returns with a 14-9 record, a 3.48 ERA, and a 157/53 K/BB ratio in 160 1/3 innings. If he stays on schedule, he’ll make three starts through the end of the regular season, including the regular season finale on October 1 against the Reds.

Arrieta is expected to max out at 75-80 pitches on Thursday and will ramp up through the end of the month.

Cardinals activate Adam Wainwright from the disabled list

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The Cardinals announced ahead of Tuesday’s series opener against the Reds that pitcher Adam Wainwright has been activated from the 10-day disabled list.

Wainwright, 36, has been absent since mid-August due to a right elbow impingement. The Cardinals plan to use him out of the bullpen through the end of the season. Prior to the injury, the right-hander posted a disappointing 5.12 ERA with a 96/44 K/BB ratio in 121 1/3 innings.

Wainwright is under contract for one more year at $19.5 million before becoming eligible for free agency.