Washington Nationals' skipper Matt Williams addressed all the chatter brought about by Ryan Zimmerman working out in left field over the last couple weeks in an appearance on the MLB Network Radio show First Pitch yesterday when hosts Todd Hollandsworth and Jim Memolo broached the subject with the first-year manager:
"You know, Ryan is a Gold Glove third baseman. With that being said, we certainly want him to play the place where he plays best. On the other hand, I want his bat in the lineup. So are there potentially situations that could come up? Yes, but we’ll have to make those decisions on an everyday basis once he comes back and once he’s ready to go. I see him playing third. Could he spell playing in the outfield? Yeah. Could he play at first? Yeah. Those things could happen, but right now that’s not our plan."
The Nationals' skipper had explained previously that working out in the outfield allows Zimmerman to get some work in while protecting the fractured thumb right thumb which landed him on the DL after he injured it sliding back into second base on a pick attempt last month in Atlanta. Williams explained the thinking behind Zimmerman doing some work in the outfield to reporters, including The Washington Post's Adam Kilgore, earlier this week:
"'It’s an effort, one, to condition his legs. Two, to try to simulate some of the things he does in the infield, going to his left, going to his right. Turning and running, catching a pop-up – whatever it is – without risk of a bad hop. That’s what we’re trying to accomplish with it.'"
While not ruling out the possibility of Zimmerman seeing some time in the outfield, Williams would not commit to the idea that the work in left was in preparation for a position change once the third baseman is able to return from the DL.
The subject came up again this afternoon when Nationals' General Manager Mike Rizzo made an appearance on the MLB Network Radio show Inside Pitch with hosts Casey Stern and Jim Bowden.
Stern, acknowledging that when healthy in the past, Zimmerman has been one of the better defensive third baseman in the game, wondered if there was any truth to the chatter about the Nationals' '05 1st Round pick playing some left field or first base at some point in the future?
"You said it as good as I could say it," Rizzo responded. "If he's not the best third baseman when he's healthy and his arm is healthy, he's in the team photo. He's won a Gold Glove. He's a solid defender at third base. We believe that he could make the transition to first base very seamlessly and be terrific over there a la a lot of third baseman who turn into third baseman; [Mark] Teixeira comes to mind and that type of thing. And he's taking balls in left field mostly for conditioning, but if asked to play there I'm sure he could handle the position very well. He's an outstanding athlete and he's running around very freely and effortlessly out there in left field."
"But he's our third baseman this year," Rizzo continued, "and once he's healthy and ready and able to compete at third base throwing-wise and health-wise, he'll continue to do so."
So that clears all that up... right?
If/when Zimmerman does return, and goes back to third, the Nationals just move Anthony Rendon back to second and Danny Espinosa back to the utility role he started the season in right? Is the Nationals' infield defense better without Zimmerman right now? Do they need his bat in the lineup desperately enough to take a defensive hit by removing Espinosa from the picture?
Will we see Ryan Zimmerman make his debut as a left fielder at some point this season?