Ryan Zimmerman made a career (and won a Gold Glove) playing third base as gracefully as the best of them. But for the past month since he returned from his thumb injury, he has manned left field for the Nationals, and even played a game at first base. When he took the field on Monday night, pushed back to third base upon Bryce Harper’s return, Zimmerman had to readjust to his old position.
Yes, readjust to playing his old position where he may play for a substantial chunk of time, while still playing his other positions.
“It’s definitely going to take some adjustment,” he said after Monday’s 7-3 win. “I still have a lot of work to do to get to where I want to be but I felt okay.”
For the previous 25 games, Zimmerman played left field, began to feel more comfortable there and grew to enjoy it. The new challenge was refreshing, and not having to fret about constant throwing was a relief, too. But when the Nationals needed him to play third base to maximize the lineup, Zimmerman was willing to do what was asked, even if it wasn’t easy. In essence, he was the model teammate. And as others are asked to jump around positions, too, Zimmerman serves as the ideal.
“When the cornerstone of your organization accepts it and does it, makes it hard for anybody else not to,” shortstop Ian Desmond said of Zimmerman.
So Zimmerman bit the bullet, leaving the comforts of left, and went back to third on Monday. In pregame work, he took grounders, flinging easy overhand and three-quarters arm slot throws across the diamond. Before the game before, he jogged out to third base for the first time since April 12, the day he broke his thumb.
“It was different, but I’ve played there quite a bit,” he said. “I took some balls there last week or so to get ready for it. It’s obviously different than left field, but not too bad.”
With one out and one on in the seventh inning, Corey Dickerson lined a ball toward the line at third. Zimmerman slid on his knees, caught the ball backhanded and fired an overhand, across-the-body throw deep from third to first. First baseman Adam LaRoche corralled the one-hopper and doubled off DJ LeMahieu to end the inning.
“I kind of peeked a little bit [at first] once I caught it,” Zimmerman said. “It’s a tough read for him because if it short hops me, obviously he’s gotta get to second base. But yeah, I thought I had a good chance.”
For all of his past throwing issues, Zimmerman still showed that he has the quick reflexes and capable-enough arm to play third when needed.
Zimmerman “really didn’t have time to get up so he spun as he was getting up and threw it over there on the money,” Manager Matt Williams said. “It was a good play.”
“I would say it was really impressive if I hadn’t seen it like 500 other times,” Desmond added. “He’s a good third baseman. There’s no doubt about that. And obviously we’re in a very good situation with Anthony being able to play third and second at there level he does and Zim to be able to play left and third at the level he does. I know he’s new to left field. But he did a great job for us out there and I’m assuming that’s not going to be the last time we see him out there.”
FROM THE POST
Bryce Harper returns from injury and the Nationals thump the Rockies, 7-3, writes Adam Kilgore.
Bryce Harper returns to the Nationals — and with attitude, writes Thomas Boswell.
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse 5, Buffalo 4 (11): Sandy Leon hit a walkoff home run in the 11th off Luis Ayala, who spent spring training with the Nationals. Zack Kroenke started and allowed two runs over five innings. Michael Gonzalez fired a scoreless 11th inning to earn the win, dropping his ERA to 2.78. Tyler Moore went 3 for 5 with a home run. Leon had two hits and Josh Johnson added three.
Richmond 6, Harrisburg 4: Brian Dupra started and allowed four runs, two earned, over 5 2/3 innings. Neil Holland blew the save, Robert Benincasa fired two scoreless and Derek Self took the loss with a four-walk, two-run outing. Michael A. Taylor hit his 18th home of the season. Drew Vettleson went 3 for 5. Rick Hague added two hits.
Frederick 10, Potomac 9: Blake Schwartz allowed six runs on three hits and walked three over 2/3 of an inning. Kylin Turnbull allowed three more. Chris Manno fired three scoreless innings. Travis Henke took the loss. Tony Renda and Estarlin Martinez both went 3 for 5. Will Piwnica-Worms hit his fourth home run.
Delmarva 9, Hagerstown 5: Andrew Cooper allowed six runs on eight hits over four innings. Wander Suero gave up one and Cody Davis two. Spencer Kieboom went 2 for 4 with three RBI. Narciso Mesa went 2 for 4.