Ryan Zimmerman to begin minor league rehab assignment Sunday

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While Jayson Werth is out of tonight’s lineup after being hit by a pitch on the elbow last night, the Nationals are very close to getting the face of their franchise back.

Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com reports that Zimmerman will begin a minor league rehab assignment Sunday with low-Class A Hagerstown. Zimmerman, who underwent abdominal surgery exactly one month ago, went 0-for-4 and played four innings in the field today in his second game in extended spring training.

While Zimmerman will likely be in the same lineup as top prospect Bryce Harper on Sunday, he could move to High-A Potomac by Monday or Triple-A Syracuse by Tuesday. Barring any setbacks, he could rejoin the offense-starved Nationals sometime during their current 11-game road trip, which concludes June 12 in San Diego.

Zimmerman was batting .357 (10-for-28) with one home run and four RBI before going on the disabled list with a left abdominal strain on April 10.

Phillies, Red Sox interested in Carlos Santana

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The Phillies and Red Sox appear intent on pursuing free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports. Santana rejected a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Indians on Thursday and is expected to draw widespread interest on the market this winter. The Mets, Mariners, Angels and Indians could make a play for the infielder, though no serious offers have been made this early in the offseason.

Santana, 31, is coming off of a seven-year track with the Indians. He batted .259/.363/.455 with 23 home runs and 3.0 fWAR last season, making 2017 the fourth-most valuable year of his career to date. Although he was primarily stationed at first base over the last year, he could step back into a hybrid first base/DH role with the Red Sox, who are hurting for infield depth with Hanley Ramirez still working his way back from shoulder surgery.

As for Santana’s other suitors, the Mariners are far less likely to pursue a deal after trading for Ryon Healy last Wednesday. Neither the Mets nor the Phillies have a DH spot to offer the veteran infielder, and the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins appears to be blocking the way at first base. Then again, Santana may not find a more enticing offer outside of Cleveland, where Edwin Encarnacion might otherwise be the club’s best option at first base. During the GM meetings, Indians’ GM Mike Chernoff said he “love to have both [Santana and Jay Bruce] back” in 2018, but hasn’t backed up that love with any contract talks just yet.