New manager Matt Williams talked at length this weekend about going forward with the much-discussed plan to get Washington Nationals' third baseman Ryan Zimmerman some work at first this spring. Before Zimmerman sees any time over there, however, in situations that are "matchup friendly" as Williams put it, the Nats' coaches want to make sure that the 29-year-old infielder is ready for time at a brand new position.
"We have to make sure that he's 100% comfortable over there first," Williams told reporters. "Go through everything that we need to go through, the progression of taking him through all those steps to make sure. The last thing we want to do is get him over there not comfortable and get him in a situation where he gets stepped on at first base or something like that."
Zimmerman's work at first began as soon as he arrived at Spring Training. "He's taken some grounders," Williams said. "He's worked on footwork over there around the bag. Certainly picked balls out of the dirt as part of the natural progression. And then as we get going, we'll get into some team fundamental stuff where he'll go over there so he understands plays, all of that, from the other side of the diamond.
"It's not easy to switch. There are different responsibilities. But that's part of the progression. We'll get him through all that stuff and then get him some innings over there and make sure he's comfortable."
With all the talk of Zimmerman potentially getting at bats at first (w/ Anthony Rendon at third and Danny Espinosa at short theoretically) against tough left-handers, does that leave enough at bats for the likes of right-handed bench bat Tyler Moore, who has backed up at first and spent time in the outfield in his first two major league campaigns?
Williams was asked today.
But first he was asked what Moore will have to do in order to show that he can be a productive player off the bench after putting together a strong campaign in 2012 and struggling in the same role for most of last season before a late run after a stint at Triple-A?
Moore struggled to a .158/.206/.274 line in 38 games and 102 plate appearances before he was sent to the Nats' top minor league affiliate in the second week of June last summer.
He put up a .318/.395/.584 line with 14 doubles and 10 HRs in 45 games and 200 PAs in the minors, then returned to the Nationals in mid-August, going 21 for 61 (.344/.375/.459) with four doubles, a home run, two walks and 19 Ks over 65 PAs in the final 21 games of the season.
It was the second year in a row that a stint at Triple-A and consistent at bats got the hard-hitting 1B/OF going.
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"I think he needs consistent at bats and that's important for us," Williams said, "so we're going to try to make sure that that happens during the course of the spring, certainly everybody gets that. But I think beyond that, Tyler for me just needs to be able to get out there and play. We all know as hitters that if you don't have those consistent at bats, it's difficult to find timing, rhythm, all those things that we want at the plate, so that's the objective."
Williams said he thinks Moore can contribute to the major league roster. "His track record is such that he's proven it at the big league level, that he can be productive," the Nats' skipper said. "We want to try to give him every opportunity in spring to prove that, certainly and then potentially beyond that, if he's on the club, give him consistent at bats within the season so he can keep sharp. All of those factors come into play, but that's the objective, that's the plan."
So will there be enough at bats to go around?
"Potentially," Williams said. "He can also play the outfield, he's done that. So there are spots to get him in the lineup and get him a four AB day. We'll certainly do that in spring and make sure that he's working in both places. Make sure that he gets some designated hitter work in spring training as well and we'll be able to evaluate him and see where we're at."