Though he struggles at-bat after at-bat, Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman’s body language doesn’t reveal that’s he hitting .222 or that’s he is 6 for his last 48 with 10 strikeouts or his shoulder isn’t fully healthy. Instead, he has maintained the same even keel demeanor that he displays when he is hitting well.
But his career-worst slump has led Manager Davey Johnson to consider dropping him in the lineup. Zimmerman went 0 for 4 in Friday’s 2-1 loss to the Orioles in which he did hit the ball hard in his final at-bat but grounded out to the pitcher.
“I’ve thought about that, but I like him where he’s at,” Johnson said. “I know what he can do. He doesn’t have to prove anything. I still like the chances every time he’s in there.”
The Nationals have consistently contended that Zimmerman will eventually snap out of his slump. That vote of confidence, based on his track record of producation and personality, likely helps reassure Zimmerman. Any drop in the order, however, could damage that, and the team’s winning despite his slump hasn’t forced Johnson to move Zimmerman lower.
“Personally, it’s not a big deal,” shortstop Ian Desmond said. “We’re in first place, and our three-hole hitter is not hitting. He’s gonna get hot at sometime. Numbers are numbers. He’s going to put up the same numbers he puts up every single year. It might just be a little later this year. He’s the kind of guy that’s capable of carrying us. I fully expect him to do that.
“No one’s ever seen [this slump] before, and I don’t expect we’re going to see it much longer.”
Zimmerman, whose inflamed right shoulder joint kept him out of 13 games and landed him on the disabled list, said he is trying to maintain his normal attitude because he doesn’t want others worrying about him and his slump. The 27-year-old is grounding out at the highest rate of his career and his line drive percentage is down — meaning he is not driving the ball normally.
“Other people worrying about it is not going to help me,” he said. “My only job is not to hit. I have to play defense. I have to help these other guys out. Nobody wants to do better than me. I want to do better. I want to get out of this.”
Added Johnson: “Talking with Rick Eckstein, our hitting coach, [Zimmerman] feels pretty good. He’s seeing the ball good. He hit the ball hard up the middle, and that’s the way it’s going. But he’ll come out of it.It’s a tough time for him. But we need him.”