Ryan Zimmerman, still building arm strength, in no rush to play third


Ryan Zimmerman (right) talks with Chad Tracy (left). (John McDonnell / The Washington Post)

Ryan Zimmerman has no more restrictions of his throwing and doesn’t have to count the number of throws he makes across the diamond. He is past the regimented portion of his throwing program since November surgery to clean up his shoulder and trying to build up full arm strength. Once he can make every possible throw on the field — from the routine to the more difficult ones where he can’t set his feet — Zimmerman will be ready to play third base in a game. Zimmerman admitted, however, that he doesn’t yet have the strength in his shoulder to make the non-routine throws.

“Now it’s just a matter of volume,” he said after Saturday’s 8-7 win over the Miami Marlins. “I can throw. I can do everything. It’s just a matter of doing it. Unfortunately, you can only do some much in one day. You just gotta kinda wait and see how it feels the next day and continue to build off of that. I can’t really fast forward. I gotta take it slow, which is kinda frustrating some times but it’s the right thing to do.”

Zimmerman has played four games as a designated hitter. At the plate, he has shown no signs of weakness. It’s a small sample size but he is 6 for 12 and smashed his first home run of the spring Saturday — a positive sign that his swing and power  has returned with little issue. During batting practice, he has sprayed the ball all over the field and even over the big batter’s eye in center field. “It’s always good to get a couple and start driving the ball and gain some confidence,” he said after Saturday’s 3 for 3 performance.

(Zimmerman homered off lefty Brad Hand in the fifth inning, which came immediately after  Bryce Harper went deep off Hand. “I’m down for hitting as many as he wants to hit,” Zimmermann quipped.)

Zimmerman has been working to strengthen his upper body when he stays back during road games. He missed about a month of offseason lifting because of the surgery and is making up for lost time now.

The tentative date for Zimmerman to play third base is March 18, the final day teams can use a designated hitter in the Grapefruit League, but it’s a flexible target. (He could still DH if the Nationals are playing an American League team or if both teams agree to use one.)

“If it takes that long, it takes that long,” Zimmerman said. “If it doesn’t, I can kinda move up and play sorta whenever. [Manager Davey Johnson] just doesn’t want to rush it. He wants me to get my at-bats but he’s not worried about me throwing. He’d rather me take my time and get the strength up. Even if we were to wait until the March 18, that’s still almost two weeks of games. That’s plenty of times to get groundballs.”

James Wagner joined the Post in August 2010 and, prior to covering the Nationals, covered high school sports across the region.
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James Wagner · March 9, 2013