5/20/2014 7:16 P.M. ET
Hairston in groove with lumber off bench
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
WASHINGTON -- Nationals outfielder Scott Hairston is off to a great start. Entering Tuesday's action, Hairston was 8-for-18 (.444) with two RBIs in nine games. His biggest at-bat came Monday, when he drove in the tying run with a sacrifice fly against Reds closer Aroldis Chapman.
Hairston decided to do things differently this year. For example, when he is in the indoor cage, he usually gets pitches that are on the inside part of the plate.
"It helps me keep the bat longer through the zone," Hairston said. "I try to keep it simple. Hit line drives and hit the ball hard on the ground. When I'm in the game, I'm not trying to lift the ball. I'm trying to hit lines drives. My approach has changed."
Hairston is also doing eye exercises, which was recommended by teammate Danny Espinosa.
"There are these card exercises. They exercise eye muscles. There are pictures on the card that are designed for your focus," Hairston said.
A year ago at this time, Hairston was a member of the Cubs. He couldn't buy a hit. It didn't help that he was usually facing the National League Central's best pitchers such as Chapman and Pirates left-hander Francisco Liriano.
"Maybe it was the year of the lefty last year. I wasn't on top of my game. That's a bad combination," Hairston said. "You are facing guys who are on top of their game. You are not getting everyday at-bats."
X-ray shows Zim's thumb not fully healed
WASHINGTON -- Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman had an X-ray on his fractured right thumb Monday, and the results revealed the thumb is healing slowly. Zimmerman will next see an occupational therapist to get a splint on the thumb that will allow him to begin exercising his right arm.
"It's not really throwing. It puts his thumb in a position where he can start working his arm, which is good," manager Matt Williams said. "It's what he needs to do. [The thumb] is not fully healed, so [the doctors] are cautious."
Asked if Zimmerman's injury wasn't healing as quickly as the Nationals expected, Williams said, "It's hard to say. Everybody is different. Everybody heals differently. It was an interesting fracture. It wasn't just a crack straight across. It was kind of like a Y. So there are multiple things that have to heal there. Yeah, we would like it to go faster, but it is what it is."
Williams declined to give a timetable on when Zimmerman will return to the lineup. It takes four to six weeks to heal the bone, he said. It's been five weeks since Zimmerman fractured the thumb on April 13 against the Braves. Zimmerman can start his throwing motion, but he has not been cleared to swing a bat.
"It's fairly typical, and given the nature of the fracture, it probably more typical than anything else," Williams said.
Rehabbing LaRoche continuing baseball activities
WASHINGTON -- Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche continues to recover nicely from a right quad strain. While he has not talked to the team yet, LaRoche expects to go on a rehab assignment before he returns to the Major League field.
LaRoche is eligible to come off the disabled list on Sunday.
LaRoche's schedule on Tuesday was expected to be similar to the previous day -- hit in the batting cage, taking ground balls and run the bases.
"I will do as much as the trainers will allow," LaRoche said. "I keep trying to push that envelope a little bit, so we will see."
Ramos given reprieve after marathon affair
WASHINGTON -- After playing four consecutive games, Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos was given a rest on Tuesday against the Reds. Jose Lobaton started behind the plate.
Ramos uncharacteristically didn't try to talk manager Matt Williams into letting him play.
After all, Ramos played 15 innings against Cincinnati during Monday's 4-3 loss. Ramos has often said he wants to play in consecutive games in order to get his bat going.
"I feel better when I play every day. That's what I need," Ramos said. "Last year, when I played in 24 games in a row, my bat felt great. I was hitting well. I was more consistent. Every decision that [Williams] makes, I respect it. Right now, I feel good. I'm ready for everything."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashinNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.