Ryan Zimmerman was supposed to make his 2019 Grapefruit League debut last Wednesday, but an illness going around the clubhouse got to the veteran first baseman, who didn’t end up playing at that point.
Zimmerman did, however, take the field Saturday afternoon, so those in the nation’s capital still stewing over how the 34-year-old infielder handled his Spring Training in 2018, (getting most of his at bats in on the back fields and playing just one Grapefruit League game as part of a plan designed by the team and the player), can rest easy.
Before he actually played on Saturday, Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said things were going well as the ‘05 1st Round pick prepared for his 15th big league campaign.
“He’s doing good,” Martinez said last week. “All his workouts are good. He’s been running the bases.
“Actually [he’s] been running the bases on his own quite a bit, so he looks good, he really does, now we’ve just got to get him feeling healthy and get him in there.”
Martinez penciled Zimmerman in at first on Saturday afternoon, and he told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Pete Kerzel, that they want to get him regular at bats going forward.
“Like I said, as long as he’s good, I want him to participate and play games,” Martinez said, reiterating that getting reps in at first base is just as important as getting swings in at the plate.
“Get out there, get down, get ready,” he said. “Move laterally, play some defense, see the ball off the bat. Stuff of that nature.”
Zimmerman saw some action at first base on Saturday, and went 0 for 2 at the plate, lining out to left the first time up this Spring, and grounding out to short in his second at bat, but then he came out for a defensive replacement after three innings.
“It’s always good to get back out there and get a few innings in and get everything started.”
As his manager said, the plan going forward is to play regularly as he prepares for the 2019 campaign.
“When things are good and my body feels good I’m going to play pretty regularly,” Zimmerman explained.
“If something comes up and my body doesn’t feel good, then I’m not going to play, that’s kind of how we go. Two years ago I played a good amount, that’s what I want to do, that’s what I hope to do, hopefully nothing comes up.
“That’s obviously the best case and what we plan on doing.”
Just in case you wondered, however, Zimmerman still doesn’t put much stock in Grapefruit League games, or at least in stats from them.
“I’ve had Spring Trainings where I hit .100-something,” he said, “and Spring Trainings where I’ve hit .400-something, it has zero to do with the season. No matter what anyone thinks, I mean it has absolutely nothing to do with it. Some guys like to get a lot of at bats, some guys don’t. If there was a direct correlation of success in the season then everyone would do the same thing.”
Martinez said his only concern with Zimmerman is keeping the first baseman healthy and getting him ready for the regular season.
“Get his at-bats, but yet get him in the games,” is the plan for the next few weeks, Martinez said, as quoted, again, by MASN’s Pete Kerzel.
“I talked about I want to see him play - ... move his feet around, play defense, run around the bases. Things of that nature.”
Zimmerman showed what he was still capable of doing in 2017, posting a .303/.358/.573 line with 33 doubles, a career-high 36 home runs, and 137 wRC+ over 144 games and 576 plate appearances, in which he was worth 3.3 fWAR, but he played in just 85 games in his 14th big league season last summer, with a .264/.337/.486 line, 21 doubles, 13 home runs, and 118 wRC+ in 323 PAs in a 1.4 fWAR campaign.
Will Zimmerman, who is earning $18M this season in the final year of the 6-year/$100M deal he signed with the Nationals in 2012, (and has an $18M club option in his contract for 2020), be able to show Washington he’s worth keeping around beyond this year? He also has a 5-year/$10M personal services contract with the Nats once his playing days are done, but the organization’s first draft pick doesn’t appear ready to hang’em up just yet.
Zimmerman discussed his contract status with reporters this past December when he was asked about going into what could potentially be his last season with the Nationals.
“I’ve always said I think, if you play a sport at this level, and, ‘Oh, it’s the last year,’ and, ‘They’re not going to pick up your option,’ all this stuff, you’re going to be basically playing for a job, that’s why you play the game,” Zimmerman said.
“We go out there every day and you’ve got to love to play in pressure situations, and if you don’t you’re in the wrong spot, but going back to that, we’ve done two contracts here, myself and my representation [have] always had great relationships with the Lerner family, with [GM] Mike [Rizzo], with anyone who’s ever been making the decisions, Stan Kasten back when he was here.
“The thought of having any problems coming to an agreement moving forward, I don’t really see that happening. Still would like to get compensated fairly, but it’s not like I’m going to go somewhere else and play for an extra couple bucks.
“I don’t think it’s any secret I would like to finish here, so I’m really optimistic about what will happen. It goes back to me just staying healthy and playing to begin with. It’s on me.
“If I want to continue playing I have to prove that I’m worth it to keep investing in.”