His surgically repaired shoulder gaining strength each day, Ryan Zimmerman has ramped up his throwing program.

Zimmerman played catch this morning from 75 feet and expects to advance to 90 feet tomorrow, gradually working his way back to the point he'll be able to participate fully in exhibition games.

Game action remains a ways off. Manager Davey Johnson said he doesn't expect Zimmerman to play third base during the first two weeks of the Grapefruit League schedule. That would still give the veteran ample time to work his way up to 100 percent for Opening Day.

"He knows what he needs to do," Johnson said. "And I think if you talk to him, he'll say he's right on track to get to where he wants to be Opening Day. But what I saw today, it was really good. I liked everything I saw."

Zimmerman has participated in team defensive drills, though he's not yet throwing the ball during those sessions. He's taking batting practice in cages and could join the rest of his teammates on the field later this week.

Johnson does plan to give Zimmerman at-bats in early Grapefruit League games, even if he's not in the field. Because most games during the first few weeks of play utilize the designated hitter -- even between NL clubs -- Zimmerman should have a chance to step to the plate plenty of times against opposing pitchers.

"You don't want to sit too long," the manager said. "When we start playing games, anybody's going to feel the urgency of: 'Well, I need to get in there.' So I want to go real slow. With all the problems he's had with the shoulder and offseason surgery, I just wanted to check that out. And he had no problem with it."

Zimmerman played most of last season with a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder. He received several cortisone shots to alleviate the pain, then had arthroscopic surgery on October 25.