For weeks, Manager Matt Williams suggested that the Nationals would put Ryan Zimmerman back at third base when Bryce Harper returned. Ever since Zimmerman started playing left field, his comments about his old position sounded like a goodbye, and the outfield proved to be a good place for his worn right shoulder.
But now, Zimmerman is back at third and may see plenty of playing time there, in addition to still playing some left field and first base. The Nationals’ lineup, for now, includes Zimmerman at third, Harper in left, Denard Span in center and Anthony Rendon at second, pushing slumping Danny Espinosa to the bench. Williams spoke with Zimmerman, who knows what may be expected of him and how it may change on a daily basis.
“He’s ready to play wherever we want him to play,” Williams said. “For a guy that has had great success in the big leagues, that is a very good attitude to have. It’s been the same the whole time, whether it was a move to go play left field, or the game in St. Louis. ‘I’m in.’ That’s his attitude. ‘I’m in. Let’s go play. Let’s go win.’ That’s all that matters to him.”
Zimmerman’s shoulder, which carries the wear and tear of a career of playing third, still caused him trouble early in the season. He has made 30 throwing errors from there since 2012. Shoulder discomfort forced him to rest earlier this season and turn to a three-quarter arm slot to make even routine throws. During recent pregame work, Zimmerman has thrown overhand and from a three-quarters arm slot, perhaps aided by lighter throwing workload in left field.
“He put his pride aside,” center fielder Denard Span said of Zimmerman moving to left. “You’re talking about a Gold Glove third baseman right there willing to move and play left field. He did a hell of a job. It was big for us, allowing the infield to stay with Espinosa at second base. I feel like what he did is the epitome of a team player.”
After he took grounders last week in Milwaukee, the first since he returned from the disabled list, Zimmerman said he didn’t care how much third base he plays when Harper returned. Despite the burden third base became in recent seasons — the shoulder inflammation, treatment and struggle to throw — Zimmerman believes he can still play and will do what is best for the team.
“The goal is to win, and if that gives us the best chance to win, that’s what I’ll do,” Zimmerman said.