When Ryan Zimmerman decided to overhaul his throwing mechanics in the middle of a major league season, he understood the ramifications. There would be hard work and inelegant throws and errors made. He made a conscious bet that they bumps would be worth the end result.
Since he returned from the disabled, Zimmerman has made four throwing errors, including one yesterday that aided the game-winning run. But Zimmerman remains confident that, while he’s still in the middle of the process of making the changes to his form, his throwing will be fine and better than before in the end.
“Just like any new thing, it’s going to take a little while,” Zimmerman said. “It’s obviously tough to learn while you’re at this level. But I get better every day. As far as the future, and getting more consistent, it’s worth it. It’s something I’m going to stick with and get better at.”
It must feel strange for Zimmerman, in his sixth season and the face of the franchise, to feel like he has “learn while you’re at this level.” It has been an adjustment. He is using his legs more and his arm less, ditching the full-extension whip from years past and using technique with more reliance on his core muscles and more flexion in his arm.
If he didn’t think he was close or the difference wasn’t significant, he would ditch the new form. But he thinks he is and it is.
“It’s tough, but it’s better,” Zimmerman said. “If I thought that the way it was compared to this wasn’t going to be a big difference, I wouldn’t do it. But because I think it can make me a better player, that’s the ultimate goal. If I didn’t think it was worth it, I would maybe stop it and try to start it in the offseason. I’m so close and I’ve gotten so much better. It’s to the point where I’m comfortable to do it in a game now. It’s going to be worth it in the long run.”
The costly throw Zimmerman made Wednesday couldn’t be blamed wholly on his new form. He whipped a quick, sidearm throw to second trying to start a bang-bang double play. The ball tailed into the runner and away from Danny Espinosa, deflecting off his glove. “It’s one of those rare plays where every thing has to go right,” Zimmerman said.
The poor throw he made Tuesday night seemed more troubling. Zimmerman fielded the ball close to the line and fired across the diamond with an awkward arm angle. It pulled Michael Morse far off first base, toward the outfield side. Zimmerman slumped his shoulders while he watched the end result. “I just rushed it a little bit,” he said. “Other than that, the past few days, the routine plays have been really good.”
Zimmerman said he’s not thinking about the form during games, just reacting and playing, which an important step. He’s still focusing on the throwing switch before games, working before batting practice for an extended period at least once a series. It is odd to watch a Gold Glove-caliber defensive player re-learn how to throw, but in Zimmerman’s mind, it’s a necessity.
“It’s coming along,” Zimmerman said. “It gets better every day. It’s just something that I have to be patient with. I have to stick with it. It’s going to take work, which, I’ve been practicing every day. It’s just going to continue to get better as the season goes on.”
FROM THE POST
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NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Indianapolis 7, Syracuse 3: Rick Ankiel went 1 for 4 with a double in his latest minor league rehab. Matt Antonelli went 2 for 4. Jhonatan Solano went 3 for 4.
Harrisburg 3, Richmond 2: Brad Peacock allowed no runs in 5 2/3 innings on one hit and three walks, striking out six. Josh Johnson went 2 for 4 with a double.
Potomac 4, Winston-Salem 3 (10 innings): Destin Hood’s walk-off single scored Eury Perez to win. Justin Bloxom went 2 for 4. Evan Bronson allowed three runs in seven innings on seven hits and no walks, striking out four.
Lakewood 7, Hagerstown 2: Bryce Harper returned after missing three games and went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. Taylor Jordan allowed no earned runs in 5 2/3 innings on four hits and three walks, striking out eight.
Williamsport 7, Auburn 3: Justin Miller went 2 for 4 with a triple.