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Zimmerman ready to return, play left field for Nats

Jun 2, 2014, 11:35 PM EDT

AP AP

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — He played a total of 21 innings in left field over the last three days, during which time only a couple of balls were even hit his way. That’ll have to be enough for Ryan Zimmerman, who now expects to rejoin the Nationals for Tuesday’s series opener against the Phillies, make his big-league outfield debut and hopefully not embarrass himself.

“I feel pretty good,” he said Monday night after his final rehab appearance for Class A Potomac. “I had three days down here, (and) I’ve been working the last week or so on it. I think a lot of people get a little bit more work than that, but I feel like I can be adequate and do a good job and do things to help us win. That’s the most important part.”

The combination of Zimmerman’s previous throwing woes, Anthony Rendon’s strong play in his place at third base and Bryce Harper’s prolonged DL stint leaves the Nationals believing they have no choice but to try something different with the $100 million face of their franchise. It may not be a long-term position switch, but for now, Zimmerman figures to spend more time in left field than anywhere else.

Out since April 12 with a fractured right thumb, Zimmerman’s return to the heart of the Nationals’ lineup is, quite frankly, more important to this team right now than his position on the field. This club has struggled to score runs through the season’s first two months, so the infusion of a career .286 hitter who hit .364 in 10 games to open 2014 before suffering the injury surely will inject some life into the lineup.

Zimmerman looked sharp at the plate in his four games with Potomac, going 5-for-14 with a double and three RBI. He produced a pair of singles Monday night, but his more-impressive at-bat came on a third-inning lineout that was scorched to the warning track in right-center field.

The Nationals, though, were never concerned about Zimmerman’s ability to get his swing back after a 7 1/2-week layoff. His primary mission on this rehab assignment was to take a crash course in outfield play. He studied plenty in pregame drills, but unfortunately he didn’t get many opportunities to find out how that practice translated to actual game play.

Zimmerman had only one defensive chance Monday night: a routine, sixth-inning flyball down the left-field line that he caught with ease. He fielded only a handful of balls over the weekend, and he never had to cut loose and attempt to throw out an opposing runner on the bases.

“I wish I could’ve gotten every type of play, but that’s not the way it works,” he said. “I feel like I’m comfortable enough and I’ve done enough work to go out there and hopefully be average. And I think the more I do it, the better I’ll get.”

Does Zimmerman expect opposing teams to test his outfield arm?

“They should run all they want,” he said. “It’s a different throw. I can get my momentum going, I can use my legs a lot more. A lot of the times, unless the ball comes right to me, it’s just going to be getting the ball to the cut-off man and letting him do the job from there. But as far as practicing all the throws I need to make, I’ve practiced those and I’ve made them all. I’m not going to be (Yasiel) Puig or anybody like that, but not too many people are. There’s only a handful of guys who can really throw in the outfield. It’s just going to be my job to make the routine play and do my job that way.”

How much does Zimmerman expect to be in left field moving forward, and does he think he’ll see any time at third base or even first base?

“I don’t know,” he said. “I haven’t really talked to Matt (Williams) or Mike (Rizzo) about that. I think Bryce is going to be out for a little while longer. We’ll see what happens when I get up there and see what they say, but I’m ready to play wherever they want me to play.”

So when the Nationals take the field Tuesday night at 7:05 p.m., a familiar face will emerge from the dugout, headed toward his familiar place on the left side of the infield. And, in all likelihood, continue jogging another 150 feet to an entirely unfamiliar position.

What happens then is anybody’s guess.

“The first game here, it was a little different,” Zimmerman said. “But every game that I’ve played — this obviously being the third one out there — it’s gotten a little bit more natural, a little less nervous, if that makes sense. Just like anything, whenever you do something new, it’s a little nervewracking. But I feel like I can go out there and do what I need to do.”

  1. NatsLady - Jun 3, 2014 at 12:31 AM

    Good luck, Ryan. Thanks for doing this!

    • natsfan1a - Jun 3, 2014 at 9:30 AM

      What she said.

  2. veejh - Jun 3, 2014 at 2:10 AM

    Talk about a hyped game? I can’t wait to see how this unfolds. Tomorrow’s game can’t come soon enough.

  3. secretwasianman - Jun 3, 2014 at 4:25 AM

    Nats now in 4 th place. A sweep is mandatory.

    • ArVAFan - Jun 3, 2014 at 6:40 AM

      Actually, we’re tied for 3rd: just listed below the Mets due to the unfortunate circumstance of M coming before W in the alphabet.

      But I agree about the sweep. I will be there tonight to cheer them on . . . and hold my breath on the first ball hit to left field.

      • Candide - Jun 3, 2014 at 8:29 AM

        just listed below the Mets due to the unfortunate circumstance of M coming before W in the alphabet.

        Not quite. The Mets are 28-29, for a winning percentage of .4912, while the Nats are 27-28, for a winning percentage of .4909.

    • Hiram Hover - Jun 3, 2014 at 7:55 AM

      Out of curiosity – what do you think “mandatory” means?

      For full credit, please remember to explain how anything can be “mandatory” in a season that you have been declaring over the past month, every time the Nats lose or even fall behind.

      • unkyd59 - Jun 3, 2014 at 8:37 AM

        Heheh…

      • adcwonk - Jun 3, 2014 at 8:47 AM

        Simple. He either means:

        (a) if I can set the bar of success articificially high, and have others buy into it, then when they don’t win four straight it will increase the Gloom and Doom chatter, and I”ll be happy;

        or

        (b) any team that can’t win four straight after a loss is hopeless and the season is over.

        My response to either of them is:

        Dude, you already declared the season over on April 25, what are you still doing here?

      • sjm308 - Jun 3, 2014 at 8:49 AM

        Just gives him more ammunition if we “only” win the series.
        Remember, the sky is falling

      • knoxvillenat - Jun 3, 2014 at 9:03 AM

        And he “promised” several days ago, maybe a week or more, to go away until next spring. Unfortunately he keeps coming back here.

      • 6ID20 - Jun 3, 2014 at 10:59 AM

        He’s a troll and you guys keep feeding him. Ignore him and he’ll eventually go away.

      • natsjackinfl - Jun 3, 2014 at 12:12 PM

        He doesn’t exhibit enough intelligence to be a troll. More like simple immaturity.

  4. rabbit433 - Jun 3, 2014 at 4:42 AM

    Our franchise player looking for a position to play. Whoa!! Makes it sound like we’re better than a fourth place team. Just hope that not many balls are hit to him when anybody is on base! This should prove interesting.

    • Theophilus T.S. - Jun 3, 2014 at 8:57 AM

      Nobody should think The Brain Trust would send Zimmerman out to LF — or that Zimmerman would agree to play LF — if there was any concern he would embarrass himself. He’ll be just fine, probably throw out a couple of idiots who underestimate him. (Does Puig come to town again?)

  5. Theophilus T.S. - Jun 3, 2014 at 9:07 AM

    In defense of wasianman, at some point it is imperative — maybe not mandatory — for the Nats to show they have indeed pushed the “on” button. They get 27(?) hits in two games against cripples then fold like linguine (3 hits) against Darvish. Getting stoned by Darvish is not an embarrassment but falling back into playing without inspiration (e.g., v. Reds, Pirates, Marlins) isn’t going to cut it. Now is a good time — against the Phillies and Padres, before playing the Giants and Cardinals on the road — to show they are in no mind to take prisoners.

    • Eric - Jun 3, 2014 at 9:20 AM

      I tend to agree. We aren’t getting anywhere at our current pace, and the injury bug is all but over as far as an excuse. Starting tonight, we’ll have line up depth through the 7 slot.

    • bowdenball - Jun 3, 2014 at 9:27 AM

      That’s all well and good, but if they take 2 of 3 against both the Phillies and the Padres they’ll be over .500 in mid-June and in perfectly fine shape. Any team that’s above .500 in mid-June is easily in the playoff race; in fact any team that’s within a couple games of .500 in mid-June is in the race they way things are shaping up in the NL this season.

      Thus a sweep is not “mandatory” by any stretch of the imagination.

      • Hiram Hover - Jun 3, 2014 at 9:32 AM

        Well said.

        Of course it’s better to win–against weak teams, against strong teams, against bad pitchers, against good pitchers.

        But the idea of a “must win”–sorry, “mandatory” or “imperative” to win–game in early June is simply ludicrous.

      • Eric - Jun 3, 2014 at 9:39 AM

        Theo didn’t say anything about a sweep or about any given win being imperative. He just said that, at some point, it’s imperative that the Nats get going, and suggested the impending Phils > Padres series are a good opportunity to do so.

        Makes sense to me. I also think we’re primed for it.

      • bowdenball - Jun 3, 2014 at 9:41 AM

        They also get a lot of chances to make up a lot of ground in the latter part of the month. Four at home against the division leader and six games against the two worst teams in the league, and then a homestand that features both the Cubs and the free-falling Rockies.

        If they return from the road trip at .500 they’ll be in good shape. If they do that and then find a way to take 3 of 4 at home vs Atlanta they could easily be in first place by July 4th.

      • bowdenball - Jun 3, 2014 at 9:48 AM

        That’s true, Eric. My comment was directed at wasianman’s declaration, and theo’s “defense” of it. Like I said, what Theo said is all well and good but that doesn’t make a sweep in this or any other June series mandatory.

      • Eric - Jun 3, 2014 at 9:54 AM

        Sure. I mean, nothing is truly mandatory until it’s your last chance to avoid elimination, and I think sweeps/wins in general are imperative only to the extent that they keep you from sinking into statistical improbability. We’re nowhere close to the former; we are somewhat at risk of the latter, although even that is not really an issue unless any of the other top 3 teams start winning consistently.

      • chaz11963 - Jun 3, 2014 at 9:56 AM

        Yes, all good, and I don’t mean to be perceived as panicked… there are 107 games left, meaning to get to an arbitrary “good/secure playoff mark” of 90 games, they need to go ate least 64-33 the rest of the season. I think they can do it, but it is not an ability they have shown yet.

      • Hiram Hover - Jun 3, 2014 at 10:03 AM

        You’re absolutely right, Eric What Theo actually did was trot out a bunch of tired cliches – “push the on button,” “play with inspiration,” “take no prisoners”–about how the team plays, not whether they win or lose.

        Those are subjective and often post facto judgments–win, and no one is going to spend a lot of time parsing whether the on button was pushed, prisoners were taken, etc. Lose, no matter how close, and there will always be fans who will single out the manager or some player an uninspired decision, AB, or play in the field that cost the game.

        Those kind of subjective judgments mean a lot to us as fans and to our willingness to sit thru a game. But they doesn’t mean bupkis in the W-L standings.

      • therealjohnc - Jun 3, 2014 at 12:49 PM

        @Chaz: 64-43 over the remaining 107 games to reach 90 wins. You scared the bejeebers out of me with 64-33 – that’s a .660 winning percentage, which projects to about 107 wins for a 162 game season. Theoretically doable, but yikes. 64-43 is a .598 winning percentage, about a 96 or 97 game pace. Not a walk in the park, but more doable.

  6. npb99 - Jun 3, 2014 at 9:18 AM

    They were a .500 club at the 1/3 point. To make the playoffs they probably need to play at .600 from here on out. Sweeping weak teams at home may not be mandatory but it sure would help.

  7. Eric - Jun 3, 2014 at 9:22 AM

    So…it’ll be interesting to see what MW does with the order. Here are two guesses:

    Span
    Rendon
    Werth
    LaRoche
    Zim
    Ramos
    Desi
    Espi
    Zinn

    Span
    Zim
    Werth
    LaRoche
    Ramos
    Desi
    Rendon
    Espi
    Zinn

    Something else?

    I really like the potential for Span > Rendon, especially if Span keeps up his current production and if Rendon picks it back up. That said, if Zim resumes hitting like he was when he went on the DL, he’ll need to be at the top of the order, imo.

    • flnatsfan - Jun 3, 2014 at 9:26 AM

      I would be ok with either of these lineups.

      Remember at the beginning of the season when everyone was complaining about Williams’ lineup changes every game. I like having this problem again. Our bats are back! Mostly…

      • natsjackinfl - Jun 3, 2014 at 9:43 AM

        I’m still of the opinion that putting Desmond and Espinosa to together in the lineup is a bad idea. Opposing pitchers have to see those 2 free swingers as a spot in the lineup that throwing strikes probably isn’t necessary.

      • Eric - Jun 3, 2014 at 9:46 AM

        That makes sense…just hate to see Rendon with no protection on a regular basis given how he fared when our line up was at its weakest…

    • chaz11963 - Jun 3, 2014 at 9:57 AM

      I wouldn’t bat Desi and Espi together.

      What about when Harper gets back?

  8. nats1924 - Jun 3, 2014 at 10:38 AM

    good question, what does happen when Harp is back?

    Im guessing they move Rendon back to 1B and give RZim one more shot at 3B — If he fails, which is likely, i would think a trade would be in the works…prob LaRoche would then get dealt.

    Nats will not trade the following

    -Rendon
    -RZim (obviously)
    -Espi

    It will be interesting to say the least.

    • nats1924 - Jun 3, 2014 at 10:39 AM

      …come to think of it, LaRoche to the Rangers??

      • texnat1 - Jun 3, 2014 at 10:51 AM

        I don’t think the Rangers would give up anything useful enough for LaRoche alone that would make it a good trade for the Nationals.

    • Dave - Jun 3, 2014 at 12:30 PM

      Is Rendon a 1B? I thought he was a “natural” 3B who has played 2B also.

      • therealjohnc - Jun 3, 2014 at 12:51 PM

        In the “trade LaRoche” scenario you are moving Zimmerman to 1b, Rendon at 3b.

        Of course, so far this season LaRoche has been far and away the most valuable bat in the lineup, so trading him away from a team that has struggled to score runs seems … suboptimal … to me. But hey.

  9. NatsLady - Jun 3, 2014 at 10:46 AM

    Here are the week’s stats, best players, etc. for Week 9.

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
WASHINGTON 76 57 --
ATLANTA 71 64 6.0
MIAMI 65 68 11.0
NEW YORK 63 72 14.0
PHILADELPHIA 61 73 15.5
Through Friday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
SAT: Nats at Mariners, 9:10 p.m.
SUN: Nats at Mariners, 4:10 p.m.
MON: Nats at Dodgers, 8:10 p.m.
TUE: Nats at Dodgers, 10:10 p.m.
WED: Nats at Dodgers, 4:10 p.m.
THU: OFF
FRI: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
Full season schedule

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ON THE RADIO

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MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
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