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Zimmerman ready for BP, grounders but still shagging

May 27, 2014, 5:58 PM EST

AP AP

Ryan Zimmerman will take a full round of batting practice and field groundballs at third base Wednesday for the first time since fracturing his right thumb April 12, but the injured Nationals slugger continues to work in left field as the Nationals try to prepare themselves for a variety of scenarios moving forward.

After an X-ray Monday showed Zimmerman’s fracture has healed, he took swings in the cage early Tuesday. He’ll now try a full round of BP on the field at Nationals Park, though the club still plans to monitor him closely.

“All indications are that he’s not going to damage his thumb by swinging at bat, but it could be sore,” manager Matt Williams said. “There’s vibration that goes through it. And he’s been out for some time. We worry about his back and taking too many swings all at once, because he just hasn’t been able to do it. He’s been running around doing all that stuff, which is good, but swinging a bat is different.”

There remains no formal timetable for Zimmerman’s return from the 15-day disabled list, on which he has now resided more than six weeks. One issue: He needs to build his arm back up after the extended layoff, in part because of the shoulder condition that has plagued him for years.

Zimmerman has been able to perform conditioning and strengthening exercises on his shoulder during his full DL stint, but as Williams said, “The throwing action is the different one. He’s just going to have to progress into that.”

Though he’s ready to start taking grounders at third base, Zimmerman has continued to work out in left field early before home games. He was back out there Tuesday afternoon, this time working with first base coach Tony Tarasco (who also instructs the Nationals’ outfielders) on technique, something he had not previously done.

Williams’ explanation for Zimmerman’s work in the outfield hasn’t changed much.

“Like I said before, there may be times when he has to do that,” the manager said. “We don’t know. But we’re covering all the bases at this point. We’re going to do grounders tomorrow. And we’ll see how he feels post-throwing today and make sure there’s no soreness there. And he’ll be able to throw some balls to 90 feet tomorrow. So I would imagine there will be some throws to second base tomorrow from third. It’s part of the process. But I can’t he’s not going to play in the outfield. I can’t say that that’s the main plan either. We’re worried about getting him back as quickly as possible without relapse.”

If Zimmerman did play the outfield at any point in a big-league game, the Nationals essentially would be forced to play Danny Espinosa at second base. Given Espinosa’s massive slump at the plate — he ranks last among 183 qualifying major-league hitters this month with a .123 batting average and .179 on-base percentage while striking out an MLB-high 34 times — that may not be a particularly appealing option.

Espinosa was out of the lineup Tuesday for the second time in three days, this time against an opposing right-hander. Williams said the daily decision right now has little to do with batter-pitcher matchups.

“It goes beyond that at this point,” Williams said. “He’s making a change (to his swing). So, during the course of a season, it’s difficult to make a change if you’re in the lineup every day. Because what we want for him is success. And to make that change during the course of a season is difficult, because you revert right back to the game situation. You can’t stand there and think about it while that guy is throwing 95 mph at you. It just won’t work.

“So we want to give him some days where he can just do some work, start to feel it. It’s all muscle memory, of course. So I’m trying to find an opportunity for him, certainly in the game, to help us win. His defense has been fantastic. He adds speed on the bases. He adds a lot to our team. At the same time, try to find him opportunity to work and get things done outside of the game. It’s a hard one. Its’ a tough one to do. But that’s the reason. There’s no matchup reason. It goes well beyond that.”

  1. cayucosbaseballconservancy - May 27, 2014 at 6:00 PM

    Looks like you may end being on the wrong end of this one Mark?

  2. sunshinebobby - May 27, 2014 at 6:07 PM

    You certainly can’t say Matty Boy hasn’t learned the ways of Washington with this response:

    Today’s explanation from Williams of possibility of Zimmerman in LF: “I can’t say he won’t. I can’t say that’s the main plan, either.”

    Pure Washington double-speak. Worthy of Boehner. Or Pelosi.

    • Eric - May 27, 2014 at 6:11 PM

      That’s not nearly creative enough to be doublespeak, which would never openly state the negative interpretation.

      Its just simply saying nothing.

      • Eric - May 27, 2014 at 6:17 PM

        For instance, “it’s just position longevity assurance training” might be doublespeak for obscuring intentions to move him to the OF

  3. Eric - May 27, 2014 at 6:08 PM

    Wonder if we might see Zim in LF, Rendon at third, Frandsen at 2nd until Harper comes back or McLouth and/or Espi stop slumping…

    • Eugene in Oregon - May 27, 2014 at 6:28 PM

      If you’re trying to maximize your offense, that would make sense.

    • cayucosbaseballconservancy - May 27, 2014 at 7:02 PM

      Harper in CF as I was thinking but Kilgore first put into print …

      With that lineup you are a lot closer to the 2012 offense.

      Danny becomes the defense first glove at the end of the lineup.
      Solid up the middle and at the corners infield defense. Outfield defense perhaps
      not the best in the world but with Harper in CF Morse in LF it was good
      enough in 2012 to get them pretty far … just shy on the other end of
      a Storen implosion.

  4. letswin3 - May 27, 2014 at 6:17 PM

    I thought that guys “working on some things” (Danny) usually accomplish that in the minors before trying them on big league pitching. MW says he’s unwilling to play Danny, regardless of who’s pitching. Frandsen looked pretty good defensively when he played second (with one web gem and several solid plays), and I trust him at the plate to deliver more than we can now reasonably expect from Danny…..and maybe Williams does too.

    • veejh - May 27, 2014 at 6:54 PM

      Frandsen over Espi at 2nd, no doubt.

      • cayucosbaseballconservancy - May 27, 2014 at 7:10 PM

        Eapinosa is so much better than Frandsen it isn’t even funny. Anyone who thinks otherwise probably thinks Werth is still a top notch right fielder to boot. Let’s see Frandsen play shortstop at Danny’s level.

        Honestly, it actually would be better for Danny in AAA given the miraculous changes Billy Gardner has brought about in Destin Hood, the Onion, and Brian Goodiwn for starters. Danny might actually get it with a month or two down there. But his glove is needed in the majors whether you believe it, like it, whatever.

      • veejh - May 27, 2014 at 7:31 PM

        I think the upside of Frandsen’s bat is greater than the downside of his D vs Danny.

      • unkyd59 - May 27, 2014 at 7:59 PM

        He’s just not better, at this point, cbc… He’s nothing more than a late inning replacement. Players with zero offense do not belong in starting lineups, unless there’s no viable option, at the position…not so, in this case….

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - May 27, 2014 at 10:26 PM

        Show me the data.

  5. Sec 3 My Sofa - May 27, 2014 at 10:29 PM

    “You can’t stand there and think about it while that guy is throwing 95 mph at you. It just won’t work.”

  6. natsfan204 - May 27, 2014 at 11:06 PM

    Here is a wild thought. There is a great deal of similarity between the footwork at the catching position and that of the third baseman. With catching in his past and his strong arm and young reflexes, I think it would benefit this team if young Mr. Harper did some work at the third base position during his rehabilitation period. The team could then keep Rendon at second and have two power hitters at two corner positions..

  7. manassasnatsfan - May 27, 2014 at 11:37 PM

    Could Zim next year play second. It is a shorter throw.

    In college he played SS.

    • theucane - May 28, 2014 at 9:22 AM

      I have thought the same thing after about the second week of the season. I think his move to second would be an easier transition for Zim. It is similar footwork to what he had at SS and he can continue to use his 2/3-3/4 delivery.

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