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Zimmerman altering motion, hopes to play Wednesday

Apr 8, 2014, 6:03 PM EDT

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Ryan Zimmerman wants to play and help the Nationals as best he can. The Nationals want Zimmerman to play and help them as best he can. At the moment, the best place for him to do that is at third base.

So Zimmerman, dealing with significant pain in his right shoulder that is unlikely to dissipate altogether, is attempting to alter his throwing motion in an attempt to keep himself in the Nationals’ lineup at his natural position.

“We’re going to try and do whatever it takes to make it feel better, and more importantly, make me be productive,” Zimmerman said Tuesday afternoon. “That’s the most important thing. I don’t want to continue to hurt the team. Obviously, being able to make plays is a big part of the game. It’s going to help us win games, which is the ultimate goal. That’s the No. 1 priority, is to win. In order to be out there and help them win, I need to make plays.”

Zimmerman was not in the Nationals’ lineup for their series opener against the Marlins, but he spent time much earlier in the afternoon working on throws from third base, using a more pronounced sidearm motion than he has been using in recent seasons. He reported no issues with his shoulder after going through that workout, and if he’s able to do the same Wednesday, there’s a good chance he’ll be back in the lineup.

“Very realistic,” manager Matt Williams said. “If he comes in tomorrow and feels good, I’m going to put him in there. We need him to play third for us. He’s a vital piece of this team, middle-of-the-lineup and a fantastic hitter and a fantastic defender. We want him to play every day.”

Zimmerman, who has routinely made sidearm throws after charging in to field slow rollers with no issues, will now attempt to use that motion on all throws. He actually used that form earlier in his career, late in 2010 and early in 2011, but scrapped it after tearing an abdominal muscle.

Zimmerman said his shoulder feels considerably better when lowering his arm slot, as opposed to the overhand motion that led to two errors during the season’s first week and his eventual benching over the weekend.

“We messed around with it a little today, and it felt a lot better, throwing that way,” he said. “I’ll take some more groundballs tomorrow like that. The hope is to get into a routine where that becomes normal and effective and kind of go from there.”

No matter how he throws the ball, Zimmerman is going to be dealing with a shoulder that is less than 100 percent healthy for some time, perhaps the rest of his career. Williams went so far as to refer to it as “arthritic” during a fan event Monday night, but the rookie manager tried to clarify his words on Tuesday, while also insisting the slugger’s condition has not suddenly changed in the last few days.

“Degenerative, as opposed to arthritic,” Williams said. “We all know that he’s had some issues in there. So the word ‘arthritic,’ I don’t think it should be taken literally, as a result of his MRI or as a result of any changes in his shoulder as of late, or this year as opposed to last year. It’s just a question of me saying the wrong word. Degenerative things in there, certainly taken care of with surgery and addressed with rehab and all that. Probably the wrong word, but chalk it up to one of many that I’ll probably say.”

Zimmerman has been dealing with shoulder pain for several years, and in 2012 took the drastic step of receiving four cortisone shots over the course of the season to help him remain productive and in the lineup straight through the postseason. The 29-year-old said he’s not considering similar treatment now, but he stopped short of questioning whether those previous shots might have caused long-term damage.

“I don’t like to think about that stuff,” he said. “I’d rather not worry about it. The shots have helped me in the past. In the past, it was almost necessary. If there’s no pain tomorrow, and it’s starting to feel better like it has in the last day or two, then there’s really no reason to. You don’t just want to get those if you don’t have to.”

These recent issues have prompted many to question whether Zimmerman, a Gold Glove Award winner in 2009, can ever be a competent, big-league third baseman again, or whether he’ll be forced to make a permanent switch across the diamond. Williams suggested Tuesday that he might use Zimmerman at first base — and DH for 10 interleague games — more than originally planned, but his preference remains to keep Zimmerman at third base as much as possible.

“We’ll have to continue to just look at it,” the manager said. “If he feels fine, he’s going to play third. That’s what he’s done. He’s won a Gold Glove over there. We have to keep that in mind. And he’s pretty darn good at it. So if he continues to feel fine, then that’s where he’ll be. If we have to make adjustments, we’ll do that. But at this point, we don’t know those yet.”

  1. cerberusbybriartek - Apr 8, 2014 at 6:18 PM

    Prediction: Zim rediscovers his motion, makes no more throwing errors this season and wins his second gold glove. There, I said it. Now I feel better

  2. veejh - Apr 8, 2014 at 6:20 PM

    Nothing to see here, same ol, same ol. Zim has been managing this issue for years now by altering his toss, minor surgeries, cortisone shots, and rest. He’ll be doing the same once again. Blah.

  3. Skip - Apr 8, 2014 at 6:20 PM

    I agree!

  4. Danny - Apr 8, 2014 at 6:22 PM

    The truth is we need to have his bat in the lineup. We’ll just have to grin and bear him at 3rd in 2014.

    • veejh - Apr 8, 2014 at 6:31 PM

      10 games he can play DH…..platoon a little here and there for LaRoche…..I guess we’ll just have to minimize the damage.

  5. Jeff G - Apr 8, 2014 at 6:36 PM

    I have been through the exact thing Ryan Zimmerman is going through. Rewind 20 years ago and I was a pitcher in high school hitting 88 on the gun. Something “happened” to my arm my first year of college (no tears) and I now cannot throw overhand. I can throw free and easy sidearm but trying to get on top of the ball feel like an ice pick is being driven in to my shoulder. Never was able to sort it out and gave up. I just don’t hold out hope that he’s going to be able to ever throw at a major league average level.

  6. dgourds - Apr 9, 2014 at 12:33 AM

    No amount of rest or change in arm slot will cure the yips. His problem is largely psychological. He’s toast at third. Too much of a liability. The difference this year is M W won’t put up with it for too long like Davey did. What concerns me is that we really need his bat. Espinosa is the same old Espinosa. He still has a long swing and will strike out way too much. This is a huge problem. Maybe Zach Walters’ defense can improve enough to break into the bigs.

  7. JayB - Apr 9, 2014 at 5:56 AM

    Move him to 2nd base and let Rendon take 3rd then next year on to first base. Wish we could just trade him the AL team as DH but that will not happen without picking up at least 2/3s of his contract.

    He can play second base fine….just a pride thing at this point….me first is not good for a team Ryan.

    • dgourds - Apr 9, 2014 at 6:09 AM

      Still need a fairly good arm at 2nd. Think double play, relays, etc. The only options for him are 1st, dh, and maybe LF.

    • Jeff G - Apr 9, 2014 at 8:52 AM

      You’d have to figure he could play 2b as good as Uggla.

  8. rabbit433 - Apr 9, 2014 at 7:14 AM

    For the time being, Zim should just stay on the bench. That would be best for the team. I’m sure tonight, JZ is hoping for the same thing.

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