Ryan Zimmerman cleared to begin rehab assignment

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It remains to be seen what position(s) he’ll play once he returns from a fractured right thumb, but the Nationals have cleared Ryan Zimmerman to begin a minor-league rehab assignment tonight at Single-A.

Zimmerman has been out since April 12 with an injury that was initially supposed to carry a 4-6 week recovery timetable.

He’s been taking pregame fly balls in left field for a while now and after denying that it had anything to do with a potential position switch right away the Nationals have loosened up that stance considerably this week. In fact, now it sounds like Zimmerman might play some outfield and some first base in addition to his usual third base.

Even before fracturing his thumb Zimmerman struggled to make throws from third base because of chronic shoulder problems, so this latest injury may have simply hastened a change.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with left ankle injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.