The way he responded you got the feeling Washington Nationals' skipper Davey Johnson had definitely considered the idea of dropping his three-hole hitter Ryan Zimmerman down in the lineup. It would be hard to blame the Nats' manager if he did. After Friday night's 0 for 4 game at the plate, the 27-year-old eight-year veteran third baseman who signed a 6-year/$100M dollar extension this Spring has a .222/.290/.310 line with 10 doubles, three home runs, 20 walks and 42 K's in 54 games and 238 plate appearances. In his last 10 games. Zimmerman is 5 for 42 with a walk, nine K's and three double plays in 41 at bats.
"He's talking with Rick Eckstein, our hitting coach," the Nationals' manager told reporters after last night's loss to the O's. "He feels pretty good. He's seeing the ball good. He hit the ball hard up the middle, that's just the way the it's going. But he'll come out of it. It's a tough time for him and we need him."
When Davey Johnson was asked this past weekend if he was confident that the former Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award-winning infielder was 100% healthy after having missed significant time already this year while dealing with inflammation in the AC joint of his right shoulder, the manager admitted, "I'm not totally sure," and told reporters he planned to have a conversation with Zimmerman to see exactly what it was that was bothering the right-handed hitting and throwing infielder.
Asked again last night if Zimmerman was healthy, the manager said simply, "Yeah, I'm sure he is."
The Nats' GM Mike Rizzo told ESPN980's Thom Loverro and Kevin Sheehan in an interview this week that he was confident that Zimmerman, who has a .284/.351/.469 line 899 games and 3,907 plate appearances in his career, is going to turn things around eventually. "He's got a track record," Rizzo said, "He's going to come out of it and someone's going to pay for it. They call them averages for a reason, I've said it many, many times. These guys, they get their numbers. They reach their norms. And I think this is a guy that's going to get hot."
Can the Nationals afford to wait for him to get hot with Zimmerman hitting third when he's tied for second in the National League with 11 double play grounders and sporting a .204/.355/.306 line with RISP this season. Zimmerman told reporters last night, including MASN's Byron Kerr that there's no one who wants to turn things around more than him, but until he does, "'I still got to help the young guys and play good defense. I can't pout or worry about myself. I just got to keep going and it will turn around.'"
While they're waiting for the face of the Nats' franchise to turn things around, would they consider dropping Zimmerman in the lineup? Johnson swallowed hard before answering the question last night, and told reporters honestly, "I've thought about that," but the Nats' skipper came to the conclusion that, "I like him where he's at. I know what he can do. He doesn't have to prove anything and I still like the chances every time he's in there."