Sunday afternoon, wearing flip-flops and a T-shirt, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman walked to his locker in the Nationals’ clubhouse, the familiar corner he has occupied for years. Inside the stall, unfamiliar equipment awaited. Next to two broken-in infield gloves sat an unworn, black first baseman’s mitt.
At the request of Manager Matt Williams, Zimmerman arranged for the glove to meet him in Viera. Still a cornerstone of the franchise, Zimmerman will dabble in a position other than third base for the first time this season. Sunday, he just played catch with a trainer in shallow right field at Space Coast Stadium. At some point this spring, he will take groundballs at first base and prepare for a possible small platoon role on the other corner of the diamond from his customary third base.
Williams downplayed Zimmerman’s debut at first base. “If we give Zim a day at first base, it’s just to get some reps over there in case something happens,” Williams said. But Zimmerman has known since December he would likely receive playing time at first, and he is prepared to make 10 or 15 starts there this year.
Here are some other observations from the Nationals’ second workout of spring:
**Williams has made an impression with detail-obsessive style, which surfaced in extreme fashion late Sunday afternoon. On an empty diamond, Williams positioned himself in the first base dugout at Space Coast Stadium and flashed signs to new third base coach Bobby Henley. That’s right: Williams seemed to be practicing how he will deliver signs.
**Jerry Blevins, the left-handed reliever the Nationals acquired in a trade from Oakland to fill a hole in their bullpen, threw his first bullpen session of the spring. The lanky southpaw was pitching in front of new coaches with a new team, but he had no extra nerves.
“I’m too old to try to impress people on the first day,” Blevins said. “I learned through your days of coming to camp, you never make the team on your first day. It’s still the same. These guys have seen the film. They know what they’re getting. I’m not trying to do anything special. I’m just trying to get ready for the season.”
**Matt Skole, the slugging corner infield prospect who missed all of last season after undergoing elbow surgery, arrived and participated in the Nationals’ workout for position players. Skole pummeled several balls over the fence at Space Coast Stadium. Williams compared Skole’s ability to hit for opposite-field power to Jim Thome, whom Williams played with on the Indians in 1997.
Skole had a monster spring last year after the Nationals named him their minor league player of the year in 2012. He played in just two games before an awkward collision at first base ended his season. “He’s got a bright future,” Williams said.
**The Nationals received their first up-close look at Felipe Rivero, the left-handed pitching prospect they acquired from Tampa Bay as part of the Nathan Karns-Jose Lobaton trade. “He’s got a live arm,” pitching coach Steve McCatty said. “Lot of movement.” Rivero’s mid-90s fastball has a hard tail at the end, cutting in toward a left-handed batter. Rivero has an upright, easy delivery.
Right-hander Blake Treinen, a nonroster invitee, also threw an impressive first session. He throws in the mid-90s and has a slider that snaps late and hard. The Nationals acquired Treinen along with A.J. Cole and Ian Krol when they traded Michael Morse. Treinen doesn’t show up on many prospect lists, but the Nationals internally are high on him. Last year, coming off an injury, he had a 3.64 ERA at Class AA Harrisburg and struck out 6.5 batters per nine.