Ryan Zimmerman has just five games of major league experience at first base on his resume heading into the 2015 campaign, but the Washington Nationals don't anticipate that the 30-year-old, ten-year veteran will have any trouble taking over at first full time after a decade at the hot corner in the nation's capital.
Luckily for Zimmerman, first base is not that hard. Tell'em, Wash.
"It's incredibly hard." - Moneyball's Ron Washington.
When Zimmerman spoke to reporters at NatsFest in December, he said that he knew the importance of a good first baseman and wanted to be one for his teammates, though he admitted he still had things to learn.
"Just learning the new assignments, where you’re supposed to be," Zimmerman said.
"Cut-offs, relays, things like that. Other than that, it’s catch the ball, throw the ball. Being on the other side of the field will take some getting used to the spin, the ball coming off the bat, but I’m pretty confident I’ll be okay."
Zimmerman got his first workout in at first base this afternoon, upon arriving at the Nats' Spring Training facilities in Viera, Florida.
Matt Williams, Randy Knorr, Rick Schu & Mark Weidemaier working with Ryan Zimmerman early on footwork and scooping at first base.— James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) February 23, 2015
"It's a process," Nats' skipper Matt Williams said when he met with reporters after today's work.
"He's new to the position. He's played it some, but not a lot. He did a lot of work last year at the position but the game reps are not really there for him. So, as part of his initial introduction into this Spring, we're just going over the basics of footwork, of positioning, of his thoughts on where he would like to play, what he can and can't do, what he feels comfortable with.
"So that was just a little bit of the introduction this morning. But that will happen every day. He works out in that regard every day.
"Because he wasn't in camp and he didn't get a chance to get out with the full squad today, we did it this morning. Just spent some personal time and some one-on-one time."
Zimmerman is, of course, replacing Adam LaRoche, who played first base in D.C. before departing via free agency and taking a 2-year/$25M deal from the Chicago White Sox.
Williams said today he thinks the Nationals' '05 1st Round pick can make the transition from third to first smoothly, while echoing Zimmerman's thoughts about what he still needs to work on.
"Infield is infield is infield," Williams explained. "It's opposite side of the diamond, but he'll adapt to that really quickly. For me, the thing that is going to be something that he has to think about, is being the cutoff guy when the ball goes to center field. He just never does it. And when the ball goes to right field, making sure that he's on all of the tandem relay stuff, but we'll get a chance to go through that during Spring Training and he'll get a chance to walk through it and then live through it and then game through it. He'll be fine.
"So, catching the ball and making a throw or making a feed to the pitcher, any of that stuff is fine. He'll be able to do bunt plays great, he's used to doing that at third base. It's just the other side of the diamond and we have to get him used to that."
Zimmerman did some work at first last Spring and continued to work at the position all season while occasionally playing there, but split the majority of his time in 2014 between left field and third base when he was healthy.
"During the season, you work at it and then he goes and plays left," Williams said. "So it's hard to do that, but during Spring anyway, we can take some time and take our time and go through everything. So I think he'll be just fine."
"He's a fantastic athlete. The game comes naturally to him. The question is getting used to it. That other side of the diamond is a challenge, but he's meeting it head on and I anticipate he'll be just fine."