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Zim misses 3rd straight game with sore left side

MLB.com @JamalCollier

SAN DIEGO -- Ryan Zimmerman went through a full pregame routine prior to Monday night's game against the Padres, taking grounders at first base and batting practice on the field to test his sore left side. That injury kept him out of the starting lineup for a third consecutive game, but Zimmerman felt much better than he had the previous few days.

Zimmerman was available to pinch-hit, but wasn't called on as the Nats defeated the Padres, 8-5. He could return to the starting lineup on Tuesday.

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SAN DIEGO -- Ryan Zimmerman went through a full pregame routine prior to Monday night's game against the Padres, taking grounders at first base and batting practice on the field to test his sore left side. That injury kept him out of the starting lineup for a third consecutive game, but Zimmerman felt much better than he had the previous few days.

Zimmerman was available to pinch-hit, but wasn't called on as the Nats defeated the Padres, 8-5. He could return to the starting lineup on Tuesday.

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"I'm glad he's feeling better," manager Dave Martinez said before the game. "It's one of those things where you just don't know. He hit the ground pretty hard, and his back was stiff and everything was stiff. To give him another day is nice."

Zimmerman is off to a slow start this season, with a .655 OPS in 31 games, although he has been near the top of the exit-velocity leaderboards and has insisted he has been feeling good at the plate. If he can return to the lineup and get hot at the plate, it could be a huge boost for Washington's injury-depleted lineup.

However, one of the luxuries of Zimmerman's absence has been that it allows Martinez to keep some of his hottest hitters in the lineup. Matt Adams can slide to his more natural position of first base, Howie Kendrick can play left field to make room for the red-hot Wilmer Difo at second base.

"Everybody else is playing pretty well," Martinez said. "We want [Zim] back in the lineup, but it's kind of nice. These other guys are playing well, so he has a chance to get another day off and get him healthy."

Kelley activated from DL
The Nationals activated right-hander Shawn Kelley from the disabled list prior to Monday's game, one day after he completed a scoreless rehab appearance. Outfielder Rafael Bautista was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse to clear a spot on the roster.

Kelley had been sidelined for 12 games after irritating a nerve in his right elbow, but he was relieved when the pain went away the day after he went on the DL and his strength returned quickly. He threw three bullpen sessions last week and a scoreless inning at Class A Advanced Potomac on Sunday.

While Martinez said he would attempt to stay away from Kelley on his first night back, he is available out of the bullpen after throwing just six pitches in the rehab assignment.

"It wasn't a ton of pitches, but that's probably a good thing, since I'm active today," Kelley said with a laugh.

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals, Shawn Kelley