“I don’t want to say it’s the last home run I’ve seen him hit,” Tim Bogar said. “I don’t want to say it’s the last at-bat I’ve seen him hit. I’ve been around him for a shorter period of time for his career, but a lot of those days have been very special. He’s a good man.”
Bogar, Washington’s bench coach, (who filled in Tuesday night as the Nationals’ manager in their matchup with the Miami Marlins, with Davey Martinez out for the night following a follow-up procedure on his surgically-repaired left ankle), was, of course, talking about watching Ryan Zimmerman, who homered the first time up against left-handed starter Jesús Luzardo on Tuesday, and hit it 442 feet to the upper deck in right-center field in Nationals Park.
“Yeah, that was a bomb. It was awesome, you know,” Martinez said of his initial reaction to the home run while watching behind the scenes.
“Opposite field though, don’t forget that,” Bogar said..
“He went upper tank, opposite field. That’s the most impressive thing, let’s just say it was a little reminiscent of [Juan] Soto going up on the train tracks in the World Series.”
Bogar said he isn’t ready to accept that this could be the last few weeks of Zimmerman’s 16-year major league career.
What’s next for the 36-year-old is up in the air, as he plays out a 1-year/$1M deal after sitting out of 2020’s 60-game COVID campaign.
“You just never know when his last one’s going to be, obviously,” Bogar added. “But I’d love to see him come back another year, and you never know with this new CBA what’s going to happen with the DH too, so that might just open up another year or two, three, four, who knows.”
Not even Zimmerman knows, or at least he’s not saying yet, whether he plans to return for a 17th season in D.C.
“I think you get to the end, and I’ve said all along, just like I did last year, this is a decision that will be made in the offseason,” Zimmerman said in his own post game Zoom call on Tuesday night.
“I’ll sit down with my family and kind of see where we’re at. And this year has gone pretty well, it’s going to depend on how I feel after the season, depend on how I feel — December 1st honestly, if I want to start working out and getting ready to prepare to be productive for another major league season, I think that’s the hardest part is the offseason preparation and making sure for the two months, two and a half months before you go to camp, that you’re doing something four or five days a week. Camp and the games and the season is the easy part, it’s putting in the work that it takes to be productive before that. There’s a lot of things that go into it.
“Obviously I think the team is in a lot different situation than it was at the beginning of last year, we’ll see how that goes, there’s a CBA that needs to be signed, we’ll see how that goes.
“Those are some things that I’ll have to think about.”
What he’s shown this season, is that even in a limited role, coming off the bench, backing up Josh Bell at first, and starting occasionally, as he did Tuesday night, Zimmerman is still capable of contributing.
In 44 games and 190 plate appearances as a starter this season, Zimmerman was 44 for 177 (.249/.295/.486) with nine doubles and 11 home runs heading into the finale with Miami.
As a pinch hitter, Zimmerman was 11 for 50 (.220/.231/.420) going into play on Wednesday, with four doubles and two home runs.
“I think you have to do your work every day still,” Zimmerman said when asked about how he’s adjusted to the new role.
“I do my routine in the cage and make sure I do my stuff in the weight room.
“I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned is when you’re playing every day and you get a day off, it’s kind of a day off. You don’t do too much. You might do some treatment, some stuff like that, but when you’re not an everyday player, you have to prepare and stay on your routine, and it’s almost harder to do that when you’re not playing.
“So, I’ve been pretty consistent with that throughout the year and I think it’s kept me ready to play when it is my chance to play.”
As he’s said all year, this is what he signed up for. He’s been impressed with the way Bell has played, and Zimmerman has been able to stay healthy now that he’s not trying to play every day, which he struggled to do for years now. The plan they came up with when he re-signed this winter, has actually worked out well in a season in which not much has for the club.
“Yeah, I mean, I think — you never really know,” Zimmerman said.
“I think we kind of figured somewhere between on the low end of 200-some at-bats, and on the high end of 300-some at-bats depending on if everyone stays healthy, if things happen, and I’m not sure where I’m at, I think I’m at 250 or somewhere around there. [ed. note - “It’s 246 after Tuesday night.”]
“So I think honestly, it’s kind of what everyone on all sides expected, and I think it’s worked out pretty good. I feel like I’ve been productive in my role, and I’ve enjoyed it.”
“He’s been awesome,” Martinez said before Wednesday’s matchup with the Marlins. “I mean, not only for himself, but he’s been awesome for other guys that are in that same role. He talks to them all the time. They’re in the cage from like the fourth inning on, trying to prepare and figure out when they’re going to pinch hit, but he explains to them how to prepare for just that one at-bat, and most of it — a lot of it is they’re getting put in a situation that is high-leverage — we need to get a base hit, we need to get on, and he talks to them a lot about just how to do that, and he’s been really good at it.”
“I think he had like three hits in a row,” Martinez continued, “... two pinch hit [at-bats], one home run... and then he comes in yesterday and gets a chance to start and his first at bat he hits a home run, but he’s adjusted really well, really well.”
Zimmerman did, indeed, go 3 for 3 with two home runs in three plate appearances over a three-game stretch.
Martinez and Bogar both stressed that in addition to his contributions on the field this year, Zimmerman has been an invaluable resources for his teammates.
“He has so much knowledge,” Bogar said. “He’s taken in so many things from this game, he has so much to give, you know. He’s been around a lot of good players on a lot of good teams, and for a young player, yeah, I’m going to watch him go about his routine, that he shows up every day at the same time, and he does the same things every day, and he’s prepared every day, but man I would be picking his brain, because that man is a smart individual.”