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3/1/2013 5:27 P.M. ET

Zimmerman to make spring debut Sunday as DH

VIERA, Fla. -- Following the Nationals' 4-4 tie with the Mets on Thursday night, Nationals manager Davey Johnson announced that third baseman Ryan Zimmerman will start Sunday's game as a designated hitter against the Cardinals.

It will be Zimmerman's first game since having arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder last October. He said he needs only 50 at-bats to get ready for the season.

"It's kind of halfway on the field, but it's good," Zimmerman said about playing his first game of the spring. "I start getting some at-bats. I'll be able to play. We are going to take it easy and ease into it. We pretty much will have a month left. We have plenty of time. It's always good to get out there and compete and start seeing other pitchers pitch against you."

Zimmerman is on a throwing program and is not expected to play third base in an exhibition game for another week and a half. He currently is able to throw 100 feet, and by end of next week, he hopes to take ground balls and throw to first base.

"I want to [take ground balls] before I go right into a game. I want to feel comfortable," Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman said his biggest goal is to stay healthy, considering he's dealt with injuries the last two years. In 2011, Zimmerman played in 101 games because of an abdominal strain. Last year, he dealt with right shoulder issues for most of the season. Zimmerman needed at least four cortisone shots in order to play in 145 games.

"I've had some bad luck in the last couple of years," Zimmerman said. "My goal is to go out there and play 155 games. I feel like if I can be on the field and play that many games, I can do a lot of things and help this team win. I think that is the ultimate goal -- just win, get further than we did last year. I think all of us know for us to do that, each and every one of us has to do better than we did last year."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.