Ryan Zimmerman’s goals for the 2020 campaign, which will be the 35-year-old’s 16th major league season?
“Stay off the [IL],” Zimmerman said. “That’s pretty much it.” He said, “DL” actually, but you can forgive him. He’s super old. But he’s not so old that he’s done yet.
Following the Washington Nationals’ World Series win last year, in another season in which their 2005 1st Round pick struggled with injuries, the club declined an $18M club option in the 6-year/$100M extension Zimmerman signed in 2012, opting instead for a $2M buyout, before re-signing the veteran infielder to a 1-year/$2M deal that includes incentives based on games played and plate appearances.
It was plantar fasciitis again last season, which limited Zimmerman to a total of 52 games and 190 plate appearances, though he did recover after a partial plantar fascia rupture in time to help out down the stretch and in the postseason.
How’s he feeling now, after healing up over the offseason, as he prepares for another year in the Nationals’ lineup?
“My body feels great,” Zimmerman told reporters upon (officially) arriving at the team’s Spring Training facilities in West Palm Beach, Florida on Monday.
“I think my body felt great last year, I told you guys that. I don’t think there was anything anyone could have done to stop what happened with my foot. It was just something that needed to happen I guess.”
Needed to happen? As GM Mike Rizzo explained at the time, and Zimmerman reiterated on Monday afternoon, once the tear happens, it does actually tend to get better.
“There’s nothing left to tear,” Zimmerman explained. “They say that’s the best thing to do. I think they say the best thing to do is just whack it. They actually have a surgery to do it, the surgery is not very good, but once you tear it, usually within two or three days, after the swelling from the actual tear goes down you feel immediate relief.”
Zimmerman told reporters this winter that he still believes he has some baseball left in him, and that’s why he’s back, even after winning a World Series, which would have been a great way to end his career if he wanted to.
Coming back to a team that is going to look a lot like the one that won it all last year was definitely enticing.
“I think obviously a special group, and to do what we did last year and come into camp as the World Series champs, it’s a great feeling,” Zimmerman said. “Like I’ve said before, that doesn’t get us anything this year. I think there will always be a special place for that team with everyone in here and the city for sure, and we’re still going to enjoy it some while we’re down here, but honestly I think once the season starts it’s time to start doing stuff this year.”
Asked what will be different about defending a World Series title, Zimmerman said he would have to get back to the reporter who asked.
“I guess I’ll let you know after April or after we’ve tried to defend for a month, but honestly I think we’re all the same, I think we go out there and we try to win every day, and obviously that’s not going to happen, but that’s what drives us.
“Competition is why we’re all here, we all love to compete, and whether we won the World Series last year or didn’t make the playoffs, I think we’d come in with the same mindset.”
What are manager Davey Martinez’s plans for Zimmerman this season? How much does he plan to play the veteran at first base, with Howie Kendrick back, and left-handed hitter Eric Thames signed over the winter?
“I’m hoping [Zimmerman] can play a lot,” Martinez said last week, and, “... having him and Howie kind of helps. Signing Howie, signing him back, they both can play first base. And the biggest thing is, look, a healthy Zim can put up some big numbers for us, we know that, but we’ve got to keep him healthy.”
How will Martinez manage the options at first? Will Zimmerman be able to stay in the lineup after years of injuries impacting the second-half of his career?
What will the 35-year-old Zimmerman contribute to the Nationals’ cause in 2020?