Ryan Zimmerman is not an every day type of player at this point in his career, by his own admission.
At 36 years old, the 16-year veteran came into the 2021 season expecting to back up Josh Bell at first base, but with the new first baseman in D.C. on the Injured List to start the year, Zimmerman was at first in Davey Martinez’s Opening Day lineup yesterday, after tearing it up at the plate in Spring Training.
Bell, and the others wrapped up in Washington’s COVID crisis, will be back at some point in the near future, but for now Martinez might have to lean on Zimmerman.
Hernán Perez did take over at first base late in last night’s season opener, but the 30-year-old, nine-year vet, has played first just 28 times in his career, starting just five times, so it’s Zim as the main option until Bell returns.
“I’m not going to play 130-140 games anymore,” Zimmerman said last month.
“I’m just at the point in my career where it’s not for lack of effort — or lack of wanting to — it’s just my body over the past five years or so has proven when I play that many games at some point it’s going to break down.”
His role as a backup at first is an important one though, so with Bell out early, how will the Nationals’ skipper handle first base? Will Zimmerman be back in there today after starting over at first base in the first game of the year (in which he was 2 for 4 at the plate)?
Martinez declined to look past the opener when he spoke before yesterday’s game, but he said he would talk to Zimmerman afterwards and see how he felt before deciding how he would line things up for today’s doubleheader.
Will Zimmerman play both games, and three in two days right out of the gate?
“We’re going to get through today, that’s the biggest thing today, is to focus on the here and now,” Martinez said. “We’ll see. I’ll talk to him after the game and see how he feels. I definitely want Zim for the duration of the year, so we got to be extra careful with him.
“But he’ll let me know how he feels. Even if he can play one game tomorrow that would be great. I’ll figure something out. We’ll see how he feels tonight after the game.”
Martinez also said he would lean on veteran backstop Jonathan Lucroy too.
Lucroy, 34, officially joined the team yesterday, after negative results on his in-take testing for COVID-19, and he was right in there catching Max Scherzer against the Atlanta Braves.
Lucroy and catcher Tres Barrera were the two catchers on the Opening Day roster with both Yan Gomes and Alex Avila, the expected backstop tandem, starting the season on the IL.
Barrera doesn’t have a lot of big league experience though, so as long as Lucroy is in D.C., he is likely to start games, including the first of today’s doubleheader.
“Lucroy is going to catch the first game,” Martinez said, and then ... they’ll see, apparently.
“Being that it’s seven innings, we’ll catch [Lucroy] the first game and see how he feels, see how the first game goes, but he’ll catch the first game.”
So, Lucroy in the first game?
Zimmerman and Lucroy are both back in there today for the second of three with Atlanta overall and the first of two today in D.C.