Washington Nationals' manager Matt Williams told reporters on Monday that 29-year-old Nats' third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was cleared to resume baseball activities after the latest X-rays on his injured thumb showed the fracture that he suffered diving headfirst into second on a pickoff play in an April 12th game in Atlanta was finally healed.
"He can throw, he can start swinging," Williams said. "We're going to take it a little bit slow with the bat, because the vibration can certainly cause pain let alone any further damage, but he's been cleared to do that, which is good."
Williams declined, however, to offer any timetable for Zimmerman's return to the lineup.
"We don't have a definite on that yet," he said when asked when Zimmerman was expected back, "but he's taken the next step which is good. So he'll start swinging the bat in the cage. Some tee work. Some soft toss work. See how he does with that and progress from there."
The question, over the last few weeks, as beat writers have reported on the work Zimmerman has done in the outfield as he works his way back, is where exactly the third baseman in the nation's capital since 2005 will be playing once he is able to return?
In spite of the Nationals' insistence that Zimmerman has been working out in the outfield because it's all his thumb would allow him to do, it's looking more and more like the '05 1st Round pick out of the University of Virginia might see time in the outfield for the first time as a major league player.
Citing anonymous "league sources," in a report, CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman wrote this afternoon that the Nationals, "... are working on a plan for Ryan Zimmerman to rotate among third base, first base and left field once he returns from the disabled list."
The work he's done in the outfield in recent weeks, Heyman writes, has been, "...in preparation for the transition," once he returns.
While Williams has stated previously that it is possible Zimmerman could see time in the outfield, Heyman notes that, officially, the Nationals, "... have yet to announce their plans."
In an interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier this afternoon, Nats' GM Mike Rizzo came closer than anyone with the Nationals has before to saying that Zimmerman is going to see time in left.
"I know where he's going to slot in when he gets healthy," Rizzo said, focusing on the offensive side first when asked where Zimmerman will play.
"He's going to be in the middle of the lineup, I know that. You're talking about a production bat that's a proven run-producer, a great hitter, with some power, with an approach at the plate, grinds out pitches, on-base percentage guy, that's really, really going to help us."
"Zim is going to be a run producer for us," Rizzo continued. "And he's a guy that, in the field, we're going to see where he can contribute the most -- until [Bryce] Harper gets back and we have our full compliment of everyday players -- where he fits in best that gives us as many offensive weapons in the lineup as possible."
Rizzo was asked if you could deduce from that statement that he will be playing some left field?
"Well, I've seen him run around out there," Rizzo said. "For me, he looks pretty darn good out there for me and a guy with his athletic ability can play anywhere on the field. I scouted him as a shortstop at the University of Virginia and there was talk at draft time that this guy could play shortstop if he had to. We all know that he's a Gold Glove-caliber third baseman. He's taken balls at first base. He's taken fly balls in the outfield. He's a guy who can play anywhere and more importantly is willing to do anything and play anywhere and do anything he has to do to help us win games and that's a huge statement from a veteran play with the caliber of Ryan Zimmerman."