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Zimmerman 'rusty' in return to Nats' lineup

In cleanup spot, third baseman strikes out four times in loss to Bucs

PITTSBURGH -- Before Friday's game against the Pirates, the Nationals activated third baseman Ryan Zimmerman from the 15-day disabled list and optioned third baseman Anthony Rendon to Double-A Harrisburg.

Zimmerman, who was sidelined with a left hamstring strain, hit cleanup and struck out four times, including three whiffs against Pittsburgh right-hander A.J. Burnett.

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"He was awfully rusty, but he will be fine," manager Davey Johnson said.

Zimmerman didn't have any excuses on his rough night at the plate.

"I just didn't play well," Zimmerman said. "Burnett made good pitches. I never hit A.J. well. Hopefully, I'll start to. He made good pitches. It's kind of how it went."

Zimmerman said he was ready to play even though he made only one rehab start for Class A Potomac. Zimmerman said he was able to "run and do things normally."

"It's not like I couldn't hit or do things for a long time. It was good to get into one game and see some pitches," Zimmerman said. "The hitting stuff has been pretty quick for me. To be able to keep throwing, keep taking ground balls and miss only three days of doing nothing made it a lot easier to come back quicker."

It marked the third year in a row -- and fourth overall -- that Zimmerman has landed on the DL. He said he wouldn't do anything differently as far as getting ready for the season.

"There is nothing you can really do. My body has felt great every year. I've done the same thing in the offseason than I've done in the past. It's just a matter of playing games," Zimmerman said. "Unfortunately, the last three years, it kind of got me a little bit. Hopefully, after this -- for the next eight, 10 years, however long I play -- we don't have to talk about it anymore."

Before the injury, Zimmerman was hitting .226 with one home run and 11 RBIs.

As for Rendon, he was 6-for-25 (.240) with one RBI in eight games.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats.

Washington Nationals, Danny Espinosa, Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman