After signing autographs and throwing long toss with teammate Khayyan Norfork, the $135 million face of the Washington Nationals franchise took his spot in left field Saturday night for Class A Potomac.
In his professional debut in the outfield, long-time third baseman Ryan Zimmerman had just one ball hit his way in five innings at Pfitzner Stadium in Woodbridge. In the top of the third, Salem Red Sox catcher Leonel Escobar hit a drive to the gap. Zimmerman broke the wrong way at first but cut the ball off on the warning track. He then zipped a throw to the cutoff man, keeping Escobar to a double.
“It’s tough to see at the beginning with the sun and things like that,” said Zimmerman, who is rehabbing a broken thumb suffered April 12. “I broke the wrong way, but I recovered and hit the cutoff man. Hopefully, I can get more plays down here and more experience out there.”
He spent much of his night in the field punching the outfielder’s glove he borrowed from Jayson Werth.
“It felt good getting my legs back under me and getting into the pace of the game,” Zimmerman said. “I’m going to continue to do that for a couple more days and see where we are at.”
He said his arm felt fine in the one throw he completed, and his range of motion with his shoulder was a tad freer when throwing from outfield.
At the plate, Zimmerman got the first hit of his rehab stint in the first inning, lacing a single to right. He saw 20 pitches and went 1 for 3 with a strikeout Saturday in Potomac’s 8-1 win after going 0 for 3 Friday as a designated hitter.
Zimmerman made good contact and exhibited the power that had him off to a .364 start in 10 games before breaking his right thumb against the Atlanta Braves on April 12.
He expects to be back with the big club Tuesday.
“I don’t like saying today I’ll be ready on Tuesday because you never know what is going to happen,” Zimmerman said. “But if everything continues to go well, and the thumb feels good with no setbacks, then I think Tuesday is a reasonable target date. But that can always change.”
Zimmerman wasn’t sure where he would play in the field on Sunday, but said he doesn’t have a problem jumping back in left if asked.