WASHINGTON -- Washington Nationals rookie right-hander Jordan Zimmermann probably needs reconstructive elbow surgery, a procedure that would sideline for at least a year the pitcher considered one of the last-place team's top building blocks.
"It's bad news," Washington's acting general manager Mike Rizzo said in a telephone interview Monday. "It's unfortunate."
Dr. James Andrews reviewed an MRI done on the 23-year-old Zimmermann's right elbow and agreed with a Nationals team doctor that the pitcher should have an operation to repair a torn ligament, Rizzo said.
The team will seek a third opinion from Dr. Lewis Yocum, who is expected to see the test results by Tuesday.
"Then we will decide our course of action," Rizzo said. "If it's surgery, the player, the agent and myself will decide who, when and where we'll do the surgery."
Zimmermann's health could play a role in Washington's negotiations with the No. 1 overall pick in June's amateur draft, pitcher Stephen Strasburg. The Nationals have until Aug. 17 to sign Strasburg.
Zimmermann is 3-5 with a 4.63 ERA in 16 starts for Washington in 2009, his first season above Double-A. He was considered the club's top prospect before this season and was viewed as a cornerstone of efforts by the Nationals to build a young rotation.
"It's a sad day for Jordan. But hey, he just turned 23 years old. What I told him was that 85 to 88 percent of these things -- depending on who the doctor is -- come back [to] pre-injury status," Rizzo said. "So if you're one of the 85 to 88 percent, you're going to be better than ever at age 24, and you'll have this surgery behind you, and you'll have a long, bright future ahead of you."
Zimmermann went on the disabled list last month because of a sore elbow, a few days after his last start on July 18.
He made a rehabilitation start at Class-A Potomac last week, but then scrapped a bullpen session in Washington on Friday, saying his elbow still was bothersome. That's when the Nationals sent him for the latest MRI.