Ryan Zimmerman went 1 for 1 with a home run and a walk in his return to competitive action following a year off after he opted out of playing in 2020’s 60-game COVID campaign. Zim’s home run was the second of three consecutive bombs off of Houston Astros’ reliever Steve Cishek in the bottom of the third inning. Not bad for the 36-year-old Zimmerman’s first time out this spring, and first game since last Spring Training (1.0).
“Cisek is not an easy guy to face,” Zimmerman said when asked about the blast after he was done for the day in his 2021 Grapefruit League debut.
“So I thought we had a bunch of good at bats before that as well. I was just happy to kind of see some pitches, get into a couple of good hitting counts, seeing a sidearm righty is good for me this early. Just kind of simplify things, and got to a 3-2 count, and he kind of hung a slider and put a good swing on it.”
Zimmerman’s blast followed a home run by Josh Harrison and preceded a Yadiel Hernández shot that put the Nationals up 3-0 in what ended up a 7-6 loss to the Astros.
How did Zimmerman feel on the field in his first game since Spring Training 1.0 last season?
“I kind of said all along the timing for Spring Training hasn’t really been any different,” he told reporters, noting that he took part in ST 1.0 last February/March before opting out of returning for Spring Training 2.0 in July.
“Not playing the games in the middle was obviously different,” Zimmerman continued, “... but being down here February into early March, and having the timeline of knowing just when to be ready, that was normal, so everything feels good and just got to continue to work towards the end of March and April and be ready to go.”
Zimmerman will be heading into his 16th season in D.C., and the 2005 Nationals’ first round pick is excited to knock the rust off and get back to being part of the only franchise that he has known as a professional.
How is his body reacting to the work after all the time off?
“I feel good,” he said. “I’ll be sore like I always am. I think you can’t mimic — they had all right-handers in their lineup, so I’m playing as far over in the four-hole as I can.
“You can’t mimic the sprint to first base, or there were a couple foul balls near our dugout that I had to run full speed over there for.
“So that’s the good thing about this first week to ten days in these games. Is you get that sort of soreness out.
“You can train as hard as you want, you can be in the best shape, whatever you want to say, until you get a few of these four or five innings games under your belt, and then you kind of stretch it out to that six-seven-innings, that kind of goes away.
“The results are great, but I think more importantly it’s getting your body ready and going through kind of your pregame routine that I’ve always talked about, and mentally sort of getting back into that rhythm, that’s the most important part for me the first ten days to two weeks.”
Zimmerman’s manager, Davey Martinez, said after the loss that he was just excited to get to see Zim back on the field.
“Just getting him back on the field was awesome,” Martinez told reporters. “He had a good day today. Like I always say, the biggest thing for him is to keep him healthy and keep him going. But he feels good. He worked really hard this winter to get in shape. He looks good, he’s moving around good, and it was fun for him today and for all of us to watch him go out there and play.”