After homering in his first at bat off the DL back on August 20th and going 6 for 16 at the plate in his first four games back, Nationals’ first baseman Ryan Zimmerman was 1 for his last 18 heading into Sunday afternoon’s series finale with the Colorado Rockies in Washington, D.C.
Before the 31-year-old returned from a bone bruise to his left wrist last weekend, Nats’ skipper Dusty Baker talked about how important a healthy Zimmerman was to the lineup.
“I’ve got to get Zim right,” Baker said, “because Zim, man, he can carry you for a month or six weeks.
“I encouraged him to start his season all over from tomorrow and forget whatever has happened and transpired in the past. And so he’s going to come up big.”
Zimmerman went 1 for 4 with a double in the first of two with Baltimore in Oriole Park at Camden Yards. He was 5 for 12 off the DL that point, with a double and a home run.
“We’re glad to have Zim back and he’s swinging the bat well,” Baker told reporters after the Nationals’ 4-3 loss to the O’s.
Before the series shifted to the nation’s capital, Baker was asked what he’d seen from Zimmerman to that point.
“He appears more aggressive,” Baker said.
“This is Zim’s time of the year. Right now we don’t have a choice, it has to be his time of year. So we’re looking forward to having a healthy and productive Zim.”
Zimmerman proceeded to go 2 for 21 over the next five games and 1 for 18 over the four games heading into the finale with the Rockies.
On Sunday, Zimmerman went 0 for 4 with three Ks, striking out the first three times up and flying out to end the game.
Baker was asked after the loss for his thoughts on Zimmerman slowing down after starting hot out of the gate upon returning.
“I think he’s chasing,” Baker said.
“I think he’s over-anxious, because he’s swinging at balls out of the zone. We’ve just got to get him back in the zone and get him concentrating. He’s trying extremely hard, but I think he’s trying too hard.
“We’re talking to him but you can’t swing for anybody, because they’re up there at the plate by themselves.”
Zimmerman went through a similar experience last season, returning from a DL stint (and 39 games missed) for plantar fasciitis in his left foot in late July.
Over 39 games before he suffered an oblique injury that ended his season, Zimmerman went 42 for 135 (.311/.372/.652) with 13 doubles and 11 HRs in 156 PAs.
"I actually thought when I came back from the foot I was playing probably the best baseball I've played since '08 or '09 before the shoulder and all of that stuff and I felt great," Zimmerman told reporters this winter, "and then obviously the little oblique thing or whatever that just wouldn't go away, so that was encouraging to come back and play the way I played, give me some confidence now to kind of roll that over into this season and do the little things that we were doing to get where I was and hopefully have a whole season of that."
Another run like that to end the season could go a long way in wiping away the memory of Zimmerman’s struggles this season, but how long will Baker wait for the veteran infielder to get going?
The Nationals already made tough decisions this year, parting ways with Jonathan Papelbon when he proved ineffective and installing Trea Turner in center when Ben Revere struggled at the plate upon returning from a DL stint of his own.
Is there a point at which the Nationals will decide they’re better off with another option like Clint Robinson, or Daniel Murphy at first with Anthony Rendon, Danny Espinosa and Trea Turner left to right around the infield?