With one more appearance, Ryan Zimmerman will be the all-time leader in games played in franchise history, though that takes into account that MLB and the Nationals still keep track back to the Montreal days of the franchise.
In terms of games played by a National, meaning 2005-present, the first first round pick by the club has far and away the most games played, with 1,767 of them since he debuted late in his draft year in ‘05.
“He’s had an unbelievable career, he really has,” Davey Martinez said after Zimmerman’s 3 for 5 game in Sunday’s loss in Atlanta. “And I’m glad I was part of it today, to watch him go out there and tie the record, and the way he did it, he went out there — a couple doubles, RBIs, he had a great day, so I think — I often joke around with him, but the way he’s playing, a lot of times I think to myself, ‘You [maybe] could squeeze out another year or two in that body,’ and he laughs, and he said let’s just get through this year first.”
Zimmerman is playing on a 1-year/$1M deal with the Nationals, coming off the bench for the only club he’s known as a professional, and embracing his role as a player and a mentor to a new generation of Nats.
“He’s been awesome,” Martinez said. “He’s one of those guys, like I’ve said before, he’s one of those leaders where when he speaks, everybody tends to listen. He’s just been really good, he’s been really good for the young guys as well. Often times, I sit there and I tell some of our young players, I said, ‘Hey, go pick Zim’s brain. He’s been here longer than anybody. Learn from him, he’s got a lot of knowledge.’ And players do go up to him and start talking to him.”
Zimmerman’s veteran-y leadership is especially important now, in the aftermath of the sell-off at the trade deadline that officially kicked off the reboot of organization.
The 36-year-old, 16-year veteran said he’s enjoying the youth movement that’s going on in the nation’s capital.
“It’s been good,” Zimmerman said on Sunday, when asked about the vibe in the clubhouse.
“I think we’ve played pretty good baseball. We’ve been right in every game, and obviously this is kind of part of the learning curve for a lot of these guys.
“A lot of these guys [who] are going to pitch high-leverage innings at the end of the game out of the bullpen, have never really had a chance to do this at this level, so it’s good for them to get that experience, and as far as the lineup goes, I think we’ve been putting together pretty good at bats and doing a decent job. I think the goal for the next 50 games or whatever it is, is just continue to improve and let these guys get some experience, and do whatever I can to help them, whether that’s playing, obviously, or just being around to answer questions.
“I enjoy watching the game and watching what they do, and talking to them after the game, and things like that, it’s been kind of fun actually.”
Sound to you like Zimmerman might make a good addition to Davey Martinez’s staff when his playing days are over?
He does still have that 5 year/$10M personal-services contract, which begins once his playing career ends, right? He could be one high-paid coach.
Bell + Zim = POWER:
The Nationals’ lineup for the finale with the Braves on Sunday hadn’t been released when Davey Martinez spoke to reporters a couple hours before the scheduled start time for the game, and he was asked if there was anything interesting to report about who he would send out there in Truist Park.
There was one thing.
“Josh Bell will be playing right field today,” Martinez said.
“I wanted to get him and Zim in the lineup today and like I said, I thought this might happen but [Bell’s] going to play some right field today.”
Bell hadn’t played the outfield since his rookie campaign in Pittsburgh in 2016, but over the last few weeks he’d been working to get comfortable out there again and Martinez decided that Sunday was the day to give it a go, with lefty Max Fried on the mound for Atlanta.
“I just told him, I said, just keep things simple, catch the ball, keep the ball in front of him, and he gets the ball just hit the cutoff man,” the manager said.
“Try to get to the ball as quick as he can. The big thing, like I explained to him is to get Zim in there along with him against Fried today and try to get as many right-handed bats as we can.”
Not much ended up going Bell’s way in the game, though there were two balls hit out to right field, and he and Zimmerman ended up going a combined 4 for 5 in the loss.
“It was definitely a different perspective,” Bell said after his return to the outfield in game action, “but something that I remembered. The game seemed a lot slower out there, a lot more time to react, and ... I didn’t really get too many plays out there, so pretty easy day.”
What did he think of the lineup with him and Zim in there?
“I think that Zim definitely put me in a position to have multiple opportunities to drive the ball in — drive the runners in,” Bell said. “You look at the game that he had today — [it] was spectacular, so hopefully you know here in a few days I’ll be ready to go again and see what happens, see if Davey throws me back out there.”
“Yeah, it’s great,” Zimmerman said. “I think any time you can get both of us in there it’s good for the lineup. He came up as an outfielder first, so it’s not like he’s never done it before, so I think he feels decent out there. I don’t want to say how he feels for him, but he can do it, so hopefully maybe we can do it some more and we’ll see what happens the next six or so weeks.”
Martinez, who coached up outfielders in his previous job as an instructor, and coach, did of course, also play in the outfield during his 16 seasons in the majors, and he thought that Bell acquitted himself well.
“I thought he did well, I watched him move, I watched his jumps, he cut one ball off in the gap, he got the ball in and threw the ball really well, one hop to second base, ball down the line he got to it really well, and actually threw the ball really well to the cutoff man. I think he kind of surprised Zim that the ball came to him a little bit, so I thought he did well.”
Patrick Corbin - Year 4:
Patrick Corbin is struggling through the third year of his 6-year/$140M deal with the Nats, but as Davey Martinez said after the left-hander gave up five hits, two of them home runs, and fives runs total in six innings of work, they’re trying to get him straightened out so he can go out there every fifth day and give the team a chance to win.
“Yes, he’s definitely a huge part of our success moving forward, that’s for sure,” Martinez said. “He’s a veteran pitcher, he understands the game.
“I truly think he’s been throwing the ball really well, we just got to get him past that inning.
“It seems like he has one inning where things go awry on him. So we got to get him past that inning.”
The organization kicked off their reboot at the trade deadline, but Corbin’s under contract for three more years, and he wants to contribute to the cause, with the group of players in the clubhouse now, and whatever the teams ends up putting together in the future.
“I think we still have some great pieces here for sure,” Corbin said on Sunday.
“I mean, ever since I’ve been in the big leagues the Nationals have always gone out and got players and wanted to compete and do well. I don’t see anything differently.
“Hopefully ... personally I can just try to finish this season strong, be ready to go and get ready for next season as well, but I don’t know, I’m just focused on [trying] to end this season — I don’t know, 10 or so starts left — just to try to, like I said, finish strong, but I’m excited also to watch some of these younger guys that we do have here to see the opportunity, and I mean, some of these guys will be here next year and play a big role on this team.”