WASHINGTON, D.C.: Ryan Zimmerman’s disdain for Spring Training was firmly established long before he took most of his at bats in Minor League rather than Grapefruit League games this Spring. He’s not in the lineup for this afternoon’s exhibition with the Minnesota Twins either.
“He likes to get about 50 at-bats in spring training,” Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore noted back in the Spring of 2012, “... [which] he figures is the minimum the team would let him take.”
Did your forget about Davey Johnson joking often back in 2013 that, “the Nationals’ third baseman needs exactly 50 at-bats — no more, no less — to get ready for the season,” as he was paraphrased by the Nats’ themselves in a post on their Curly-W blog back in 2013.
Then when Zimmerman hit three home runs his 50th, 51st, and 52nd at bats that Spring, Johnson joked, “I guess as soon as Zim gets his 50 at-bats, he’s ready.”
In spite of the fact that he played in just one Grapefruit League game this Spring, GM Mike Rizzo told MLB Network Radio’s Eduardo Perez and Steve Phillips earlier this month that he was fully confident Zimmerman would be ready for the start of the season.
“Zim is getting a lot of at bats on the back fields,” Rizzo explained. “We like that controlled environment for our veteran players. He likes it out there. He can get ten at bats in a day if he wants to, he leads off every inning, kind of the way he likes to do it.”
“He’s a veteran guy,” new manager Davey Martinez told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman last week as Spring Training wrapped up without Zimmerman back in against major league pitching.
“He knows what he needs,” Martinez added. “He’s gotten a lot of at-bats, and he feels good. He likes where he’s at. And I’m comfortable with him doing what he’s doing. Here’s a guy that doesn’t really like Spring Training and has had a good Spring Training. He says he’s ready to go.”
“If the season was to start today,” Zimmerman said, as quoted in a 3/20 WaPost article by Chelsea Janes, “and this is what I had [in terms of spring training workload], there’s not a doubt in my mind that I’m ready to go.”
“Some people might think I’m crazy for doing this, and I respect that, too,” he added. “But at the end of the day it’s me that has to go out and play. And if I feel good, I feel good.”
Zimmerman is, of course, coming off a .303/.358/.573, 33 double, career-high 36 home run campaign in 2017 in which he played a total of 144 games and made 576 plate appearances, finishing up at 3.3 fWAR, his highest total since 2012.
Maybe we should trust that Zim knows what he’s doing in terms of getting himself ready for the start of the season at least until he proves everyone wrong or right once the games that count start.
UPDATE: Davey Martinez discussed the plan with Zimmerman in today’s pregame presser in Nationals Park. Here’s some of what he said, after explaining that the Nationals’ first baseman would not play today, but would be ready for Opening Day.
One reporter wondered if Zimmerman should just walk into the room to let everyone know that he is, in fact, healthy, and ready to go for the start of the season.
“He’s ready. He’s ready,” Martinez said. “I saw him run the bases the other day and he looks really good, so we’re excited to get him on the field and he’s excited too.”
Asked if he understood fan angst about how Zimmerman approached getting his work in this Spring, Martinez said his main concern was Zim himself and how he feels.
“You know what, for me, my concern is Zim and how he feels,” Martinez explained, “and we worked out a plan for him and it worked out really well. He’s healthy, he feels good, he made a comment about how this is the best Spring he’s had and he feels great, so I’m looking forward to getting him on the field Opening Day, and we asked him — you know, how he was feeling, he said he feels great — we asked him if he wants to get some at bats today, and he said he wants to stick to the game plan, so that’s what we did.”