Davey Martinez penciled Ryan Zimmerman in against Atlanta Braves’ left-hander Max Fried on Tuesday night in Truist Park, and he talked before the game about potentially giving the 36-year-old first baseman back-to-back outings with another lefty [Drew Smyly] lined up in Wednesday’s matchup with Washington’s NL East rivals.
“I’ll have conversations with him after the game,” Martinez told reporters in his daily Zoom call.
“Like I said, he’s doing great, but the biggest thing is to keep him healthy, I mean, that’s it.
“So he’s going to play today, I’ll talk to him tomorrow and see how he feels, but let him go out there today and have some fun and keep doing what he’s doing.”
Zimmerman had his fun. He went 2 for 5 with a double and a home run in the club’s 11-6 win, which snapped a five-game losing streak.
“Zim is Zim,” Martinez said after the two-hit game for Zimmerman. “Zim has been hitting the ball unbelievably all year long.”
Zimmerman finished the night 29 for 91 (.319/.347/.593) with seven doubles, six home runs, four walks, and 25 strikeouts in 95 plate appearances this season, as he’s transitioned into a new role with the only team he’s known as a professional, coming off the bench in his 16th MLB campaign.
Zimmerman, wearing his S.O.B (Studs Off the Bench) t-shirt in his own post game Zoom call on Tuesday night, joked after the game that he’d probably return to the bench for the third of four in Atlanta.
“I’ll probably be back tomorrow, one good game, and then back to the old bench,” he said with a smile.
As much as fans are clamoring for Zimmerman to play more often, even with Josh Bell now looking vastly improved at the plate after a slow start, as Zimmerman explained recently, this role is what he signed up for when he returned after opting out of playing in 2020’s 60-game COVID season last summer.
“It helps not having to play every day to be honest with you,” Zimmerman said last month.
“The last four or five years when I was playing every day, and the injuries and things like that. It’s been nice to start a couple times a week and pinch hit, really be able to kind of take care of my body and do the most that I can to stay healthy, so when it is my chance to play I can produce.
“You can’t get away with that when you’re supposed to be an everyday player. But the point I’m at in my career now, and this role, we’ve talked about it, it’s my role. It’s what I’m supposed to do. So I’ve kind of accepted it and I enjoy it. And I’m trying to be the best that I can at it.”
Zimmerman was 4 for 15 (.266 AVG) with two doubles and a home run as a pinch hitter as of Wednesday morning. He hit his 5th home run as a starter on a first-pitch sinker from reliever Edgar Santana, and he talked after the game about his approach in that at bat and jumping on a first pitch aggressively, and swinging at a strike as his manager has been preaching.
“He’s a sinker slider guy,” Zimmerman explained, “so you try to — you’ve got a lot of options. You can sit slider if you want, or you can eliminate the slider and then you know he throws a sinker, so they’re trying to push the ball away from me a little bit and he threw one, started away and came back middle, and honestly just tried to hit the ball the other way hard, didn’t try to do too much, put a good swing on it, and yeah, it was better to not take that first-pitch fastball.”
As Zimmerman predicted, he was back on the bench on Wednesday night, with the switch-hitting Bell starting against left-hander Drew Smyly, but as Martinez explained after the win, (in which Bell went 1 for 3 with a walk), the decision was based on his daily conversations with Zimmerman.
“He was sore,” Martinez explained. “That’s something that we always talk about, I talk about with him and the good thing is that we have Bell to play. Bell can play. And Bell swung the bat well today again, so I’m going to go back in there and speak to [Zim] about tomorrow and see if he can play tomorrow and make out a lineup for tomorrow morning.”