Manny Acta on Ryan Zimmerman’s move to the outfield and Nats’ defensive woes


(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Former Nationals manager Manny Acta joined Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro on ESPN 980′s “The Sports Fix” on Tuesday to discuss Ryan Zimmerman’s move to the outfield and the general state of the team, which enters a three-game series against the Phillies 3.5 games out of first place in the division.

“Is it going to be easy? No, it’s not going to be easy,” Acta said of Zimmerman’s transition from third base to left field, where he’ll start Tuesday against the only team beneath the Nationals in the NL East standings. “But I’ll tell you what, a lot of people are concerned about the throwing issue. How many left fielders do you actually see on an everyday basis throwing guys out on the bases? That just doesn’t happen. Very few guys overall throw guys out on the bases. All he needs to do is make the routine play and not get caught up with the throwing thing. The majority of the time when a left fielder thinks he can throw a guy out at the plate, if he doesn’t hit the cutoff man, what he does is allow the hitter to move into scoring position.”

Acta praised what he described as a “team-first move” and said he thinks Zimmerman will be just fine because he’s a good athlete. Nationals center fielder Denard Span isn’t particularly concerned about Zimmerman becoming his new neighbor in the outfield, either, but for a different reason.

The Nationals, whose 47 errors are the most in the National League, can’t get much worse defensively. Later in the segment, Loverro asked Acta how much Matt Williams should be held accountable for Washington’s defensive struggles. Williams, who has stressed the importance of defense since the day he was introduced as manager and even added a defensive coordinator to the staff, has been unable to explain his team’s fielding woes.

“When it comes to ground balls and fly balls, I mean, how can you put that on a manager?” Acta said. “The only part that you can really put on a manager are the defensive woes that are caused by the fundamental part of the game, of not throwing to the right bases, not being on the same page when they’re doing bunt plays, the catcher not throwing to the right base and stuff like that — not holding runners. But when it comes to ground balls and fly balls, and stuff like that, you can’t fault Matt Williams for that.”

Acta, who works as an analyst for ESPN and ESPN Deportes, said he isn’t concerned about Washington’s ability to turn things around, no matter who’s in left field.

“The Nationals have the talent and the depth to go on [the type of run] where they could go and crush the opposition for a month and just make up whatever they have to make up,” he said.

Scott Allen writes about all things D.C. sports. Follow him on Twitter @ScottSAllen or e-mail him if you’ve got a tip to share.
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