What position should Zimmerman play when he returns?

May 29

The Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman has played only one game in his entire career at a position other than third base. (Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images)

Ryan Zimmerman showed that he hasn’t lost any power during batting practice Wednesday, when he launched a pitch to the seating area underneath the Red Porch.

But this question still remains for Zimmerman, who’s been struggling at third for years and is still on the disabled list with a broken thumb: Where will he play defensively when he returns?

“He can play both corners of the infield, he could play short if we need him to play short, and he can play left [field],” manager Matt Williams said.

With Ian Desmond at shortstop and Adam LaRoche at first base, the lone two options for the remainder of 2014 appear to be third base or left field — at least for as long as Bryce Harper remains out with his own thumb injury.

Here are the arguments for Zimmerman at either position:

Third base

Throughout his career, Zimmerman has been instinctive at third, reacting quickly to hard-hit grounders. But he’s dealt with shoulder problems that have led to unpredictable throwing errors.

However, there might not be a better option for the Nats. Anthony Rendon has a modest .957 fielding percentage on the hot corner, and second baseman Danny Espinosa is in the midst of a hitting slump. Utility man Kevin Frandsen, batting .239, is not adding much at the plate.

Zimmerman took some grounders on Wednesday at first base and was expected to receive work at third on Thursday.

“Zim looks like Zim; he looked good,” Rendon said. “Obviously he will be a good addition whenever he gets back.”

Left field

Zimmerman, 29, is athletic enough to make the transition to the outfield. The move could also help his shoulder down the road.

At third, Zimmerman has to rely mostly on arm strength to fire a ball to first base. In the outfield, a running start is used for most throws, which would take some strain off of Zimmerman’s shoulder. With LaRoche hitting well, the possibility of his 2015 mutual option being picked up has increased, which could hurt Denard Span’s chances of being brought back. If so, Harper could move to center with Zimmerman playing left field for seasons to come. A head start now would make sense if this is the way the club is leaning.

“I feel comfortable wherever it makes sense for me to help the team win,” Zimmerman said. “I think anybody in this clubhouse would do that. I’m not sure if I could pitch or catch, but I feel like I could play anywhere else on the baseball field and not look out of place.”

More Nationals: LaRoche is back and looking to solve the Nats’ hitting woes

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