When the prospect of moving back to third base from left field was brought up before Washington Nationals' skipper Matt Williams made the final decision to put Ryan Zimmerman back at the hot corner upon Bryce Harper's return, the Nats' '05 1st Round pick talked openly to reporters about enjoying the game again after a few tense seasons at third in which he worried about having to make a throw across the diamond with a shoulder that no longer allowed him to do what he once did.
"It’s fun out there," Zimmerman told MLB.com's Bill Ladson when asked about playing left field. "It has taken some of the burden off of what I was feeling at third base."
The so-called "face" of the franchise, was, however, willing to do whatever was asked of him, though he also said that Anthony Rendon was currently a better option at third base.
"I think Anthony is a hell of a third baseman. I think there is no doubt right now he is better over there than me. But you have to have your best players in the lineup somehow. Whatever [manager] Matt [Williams] needs me to do, that’s what I’ll do."
Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo talked this week in an interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier about how Zimmerman's willingness to do whatever was asked of him made a potentially uncomfortable situation a non-issue.
"He's a guy that we've always thought was our third baseman," Rizzo said.
"With the injuries to [Harper] in the outfield, we figured that the best way get as many bats as we could in the lineup was to put Zim in left field. We approached him with the idea. He was all for it, whatever it takes to help the ballclub. He worked extremely hard to perform out there in left field and he's a guy that when asked to do something and go outside of his comfort zone and box, as a veteran player that's been in the league a long time, he's very open to it and he's all about one thing, he just wants to win championships and whatever he can do to help us do that he will."
"But let's not gloss over the fact," Rizzo continued, "that this guy is a veteran player that could have made this much, much more difficult for myself and for Matt Williams and [he] made it much smoother and easier than anybody could have expected."
The early returns on Zimmerman at third base once again?
Matt Williams told reporters on Friday afternoon that he's happy with what he's seen from the 29-year-old infielder.
"I think he's thrown fine," Williams said. "He's had a few plays. The spin play the other night and throw to second was good. Certainly diving to his left was good. He dove on the line drive the other night and threw from his knees, a one-hopper over there which was fine. I think he's done fine."
Missing a month and a half while he recovered from a fractured right thumb, Williams suggested, may have been beneficial to Zimmerman, who was once again struggling with shoulder issues in April that forced him to change to a ¾ arm slot when he had tried to return to an overhand throwing motion.
"I think the time off from making that throw helped him," the first-year manager explained. "I think his arm feels fine. I would imagine that throwing from the outfield and making the longer throw maybe helped as well. So, I think he's throwing fine."
The July heat may be helping as well.
"It's warmer, not quite as cool as it was early on, for sure. So, yeah, probably all of that contributes to it," Williams said.
Things are starting to pick up at the plate as well.
Zimmerman was 1 for 4 on Friday afternoon, leaving him 11 for 37 (.297 AVG) in his last 10 games with four doubles and a home run over that stretch.
While he has a history of swooning in June (with a .240/.304/.393 career line in the season's third month), Zimmerman has a .312/.381/.503 line in the month of July over the course of his 10-year career.
The Nationals are heating up, so is the weather and the Nationals' third baseman too.