Ryan Zimmerman will DH to start the spring, and other notes

(John McDonnell/The Washington Post) (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Ryan Zimmerman took his turn with the rest of the Nationals infielders during rundown drills this morning, except for one pivotal step. Unless he could toss it only a few feet, Zimmerman didn’t throw the ball.

Still easing his way into spring after offseason shoulder surgery, Zimmerman played catch before the workout began. He threw up to 75 feet today, and tomorrow he plans on stretching out to 90. “Big day,” he said jokingly.

Manager Davey Johnson watched Zimmerman throw. Johnson wants him to rebuild his throwing mechanics into a smoother motion after he struggled through last year with an inflamed AC joint. Johnson was pleased today. “Looked natural,” Johnson said. “Free and easy.”

In an effort to move Zimmerman along slowly, Johnson plans to use Zimmerman as a designated hitter early in the spring. He does not expect Zimmerman to be able to play defense in a game until two weeks into the Grapefruit League schedule. For Zimmerman, who finds spring training pointless after 50 at-bats, that’s fine.

Zimmerman has yet to take full batting practice, but he’s taking swings at soft flips in the batting cage and plans to join his teammates for the full BP by the end of the week.

“He knows what he needs to do,” Johnson said. “If you talk to him, he’ll say he’s right on track to get where he wants to be opening day.”

>>> Nationals pitchers did not throw bullpen sessions today, taking a day off from the mound before live practice begins tomorrow. Coaches did not post how the groupings and pitchers and position players would match. Stephen Strasburg is scheduled to throw tomorrow. We’re hoping the spring training fates align him to throw against Bryce Harper. They missed each other last season. That would be fun for people watching and scary for the baseball.

>>> New first base coach Tony Tarasco, who replaced Bo Porter as the major league outfield instructor, led the Nats’ outfielders through an interesting drill. There were no footballs tucked under their glove arms – a Porter specialty. There were also no gloves.

The outfielders lined up and drop-stepped one way or the other. Tarasco would then lob the ball over their opposite shoulder, to make them twist and find the ball. Then they would have to catch it with their bare glove hand.

Afterward, Roger Bernadina explained the purpose of the drill. Tarasco wanted them to practice picking up the ball after they had lost it and then to be comfortable making the catch – to let the ball fall softly into the hand rather than “fighting the ball,” Bernadina said. Without a glove, the outfielders couldn’t stab at the ball. They had to focus on it all the way into their palm.

Adam Kilgore covers national sports for the Washington Post. Previously he served as the Post's Washington Nationals beat writer from 2010 to 2014.

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Adam Kilgore · February 19, 2013

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