Zimmerman Gets a Rare Night Off

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 24, 2006

MIAMI, Aug. 23 -- A day after third baseman Ryan Zimmerman committed an error that started a three-run rally for the Florida Marlins, Manager Frank Robinson gave his star rookie a night off, the first time Zimmerman was out of the starting lineup since June 5.

"It's overdue," Robinson said. Zimmerman entered Wednesday night's game against the Marlins 0 for his last 16, dropping his average to .279, the first time it's been below .280 since July 4. Robinson said he could see signs of fatigue.

"You can see it in the field a little bit," Robinson said. "Mentally, [he's] not as alert, not as sharp."

Zimmerman, though, said he feels better than he expected more than three-quarters of the way through his first full major league season.

"I feel healthy," he said. "My legs feel fine, and nothing really hurts. You get tired sometimes, but once you get out there and start playing, it goes away. That was one thing I was really worried about this year, how I was going to hold up the whole year. We got what, a month left, and I feel fine."

Zimmerman added weight in the offseason -- getting up to 225 pounds -- in order to prepare for the long haul, and he said Wednesday that he's stayed between 220 and 225 all season.

Before Wednesday night, Zimmerman and Milwaukee first baseman Prince Fielder were tied among rookies for the most games played with 123. Florida shortstop Hanley Ramirez played in his 123rd game Wednesday.

Escobar Is Back

Outfielder Alex Escobar finally checked out of a local hospital Wednesday morning and found himself, of all places, in the starting lineup, hitting cleanup. Escobar went to the hospital Monday to have an infection in his left elbow checked out, and while the swelling went down, he said doctors still weren't certain what caused the problem. The leading candidates: an ingrown hair or an insect bite.

"I didn't get really sick, so I wasn't scared," he said. "I was just worried that the swelling wouldn't go down." . . .

Lost in the midst of Tuesday's 7-5 loss was another decent performance from reliever Ryan Wagner, who took the loss by giving up three unearned runs in the eighth, when the Marlins loaded the bases with no outs. "He could've gotten out of the inning with no runs," Robinson said. Though his ERA remains at 6.97, Wagner has shown a sinker that, at times, is extremely impressive.

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