The Nationals have finally pieced together something close to the middle of the order they envisioned in spring training, but the envisioned results have not followed. After his outstanding start, Adam LaRoche has cooled. Michael Morse has not reached base in his first eight plate appearances. And Ryan Zimmerman, in the aftermath of signing a $100 million contract and suffering inflammation in his shoulder joint, has not been Ryan Zimmerman.
The Nationals sought a leadoff hitter who could reach base at a high frequency for two years, and now that they finally have one in Steve Lombardozzi, the middle of their lineup has started to go cold.
While batting third, Zimmerman has hit .232/.314/.333. His lack of power has been stunning; in 169 plate appearances this year, Zimmerman has two homers and nine doubles. His shoulder injury seems to have sapped some power, and he has not showed any promise lately – he’s 4 for his last 29 with a walk and a double.
Zimmerman, though, can catch for fire for large swaths, and one of those stretches would turn around his season. Manager Davey Johnson has no concerns about the face of the franchise.
“I know he tends to be a little streaky,” Johnson said. “He’s such a gifted athlete, he’s not one I really worry about. His track record is impeccable. But we do need the middle of our lineup to crank up a little bit – get Morse right, get Zim on a hot streak.”
Morse, not surprisingly, has started slow since he made his season debut Saturday. In two games, Morse is 0 for 8 with three strikeouts. One scout who watched Morse play his final rehab game said his bat seemed slow, and it would take time for Morse to regain his timing.
“If you ask him, he felt like he’d be able to step in and get his hits,” Johnson said. “But he’s facing better pitching up here. You get a little anxious when you get up here, and I think he’s been a little anxious the first two days. But he’s used to coming in cold. He was a bench guy until last year. I look for him to be close to ready right now.”
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