NEW YORK -- Nationals right-hander Jason Marquis, on the disabled list with bone chips in his right elbow, had his first rehab assignment for Class A Potomac on Tuesday night. He allowed three runs in 3 2/3 innings in an 8-5 loss to Winston-Salem. Marquis threw 54 pitches, 36 for strikes.

It will be interesting to see where Marquis' next start will be. He was hoping to start for Double-A Harrisburg and then return to the big leagues after that.

Zimmerman bullish on Nats going forward

NEW YORK -- Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman has never played in meaningful games in his pro career until now. Entering Tuesday's action against the Mets, the Nationals are 18-14 and in second place in the National League East.

In Zimmerman's four full seasons in the big leagues, the Nationals have lost 89 games or more per season. What is the difference with this current team? Manager Jim Riggleman has a lot to do with the team success, according to Zimmerman.

"I think the greatest thing about this team is we don't get too high or too low," Zimmerman said. "I think Riggs is a big part of that. He is a very calm guy. He doesn't get too emotional about anything -- good or bad. That's a great attitude for us to have. We have been playing well."

Zimmerman said he started to see positive things about the team dating back to the second half of last season. Washington won 33 games after the All-Star break and ended the season on a seven-game winning streak.

"We started to play a little bit better. We started doing the little things right," Zimmerman said. "We've always had talent. I think it's more of a mind-set and realization that in order to win baseball games, you have to bunt guys over, make plays in the seventh and eighth innings to help the pitchers out.

"I think we finally learned that the little things are just as important as hitting home runs and doing things like that. I think for the first time, we all have that mind-set and understand that's how we need to play. So far, it's worked out good."

Zimmerman declined to give a prediction on how far the Nationals could go the rest of the season, but he likes the way the team has won games without key players like himself, Jason Marquis and John Lannan, all of whom have been out of action at some point because of injuries.

"If I would have told you that I would have missed double-digit games, Lannan and Marquis would have one win combined and we would be four games over .500 more than 30 games into the season, a lot of people wouldn't believe you," Zimmerman said. "I think that shows you how deep the team is. ... The scary thing is, we are only going to get better."

Lannan likely to have pitch limit Thursday

NEW YORK -- Left-hander John Lannan may be on a pitch limit against the Rockies on Thursday. Manager Jim Riggleman said the team wouldn't want him to throw more than 100 pitches.

It will be Lannan's first start since May 2 against the Marlins. He missed a start against Florida on Saturday because of left elbow discomfort.

"I just want him to be John Lannan," Riggleman said. "We want him to pitch pain free, throw his pitches and keep the ball down. That first performance will be more how he feels and how he recovers from that more so than just the results of the game."

Lannan threw a bullpen session on Monday without having any problems with his left elbow. He threw between 60 and 65 pitches.

The team's trainers and pitching coach Steve McCatty were on hand to make sure Lannan was able to throw his full repertoire of pitches -- curveball, slider, fastball and changeup.

Riggleman fine with right-field contingent

NEW YORK -- Nationals right fielders were hitting a combined .159 with four home runs and 15 RBIs entering Tuesday's action, but manager Jim Riggleman doesn't appear to be concerned about the lack of production.

In fact, the skipper said he likes the contributions he is getting from the position. For the moment, Roger Bernadina is playing against right-handed pitching, while Willy Taveras started Tuesday's game against Mets left-hander Jonathon Niese.

"I know we don't have a typical right fielder, but whenever I put Willie Harris out there, whenever I put Roger Bernadina out there, I feel like something good is going to happen," Riggleman said. "I know we are going to play good defense. We are going to throw the ball to the right base; we are going to have heads-up play out there.

"We are winning our share of ballgames. It has been pitching and defense type of wins the last couple of weeks. We'll take that. That's good baseball."