WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, it’s no secret, has had shoulder issues in his throwing arm dating back to April 2012.
Zimmerman struggled through the first part of that season, with aid from a series of cortisone shots, until one lucky shot, back in June 2012, did the trick freeing him to again swing and throw with ease and free from pain. He was perhaps the Nationals best hitter from that moment forward.
At the conclusion of the season, Zimmerman would undergo arthroscopic surgery in his right shoulder, to repair his beleaguered AC joint.
“The cuff and the labrum were frayed, just like every single person that’s played baseball, so they cleaned that up,” he said last March.
But Zimmerman’s struggles to get the ball to first base would return, re-emerging sporadically throughout the 2013 season, all the while Zimmerman maintaining that his arm was fine.
On Friday, Zimmerman admitted to having trouble with his arm again in 2013, in an interview with the Junkies on 106.7 The Fan.
“Will you now admit that last year, even though you told us all – ‘arm’s money, arm’s money, arm’s silly’ – that it still wasn’t right?” Eric Bickel asked.
“Yea,” Zimmerman muttered.
“You were lying to us,” Bickel said.
“I lie to you guys every day,” Zimmerman joked.
“It just looked like you were throwing differently,” John-Paul Flaim said.
“It’s one of those things, where, that’s why nobody ever wants to have surgery, because you never know what’s gonna happen,” Zimmerman explained.
“They say, ‘you’ll be fine by April, you’ll be fine by June,’ and then, you just never know,” he said. “And when you put a timetable on something like that, it’s dangerous, because as a player, I want to be back, obviously, as soon as I can. It was a frustrating year because nothing was consistent. It’s something I never had been through before, so I learned a lot from it.”
As Zimmerman takes some reps at first base in spring training — in preparation of playing between 10 and 20 games at the position during the 2014 season — the question now becomes: How long before he becomes a more permanent fixture across the diamond?
In February, manager Matt Williams downplayed the impending move — dismissing the notion that Zimmerman was being phased-in at first base, especially with current first baseman Adam LaRoche slated to hit free agency after the season — and outright refuting his decision to play Zimmerman at first as being a preventative measure aimed at staving off any possible lingering pain in Zimmerman’s throwing shoulder.
“It’s on a temporary basis if we want to gain an advantage with our lineup,” Williams said. “Nothing further than that.”
“I don’t mind,” Zimmerman said on Friday. “I told Matt that if it’s going to help us win more games, I’m in. I mean, ten, fifteen, twenty games is okay, and if it gives us a better chance to win those games, when I go over there and play, that’s the whole point of everyone being here.”
For Zimmerman, at least publicly, his troubles with his arm are a dead issue.
“I think I need to have a year like I used to have,” Zimmerman said in February. “Play third base like I know I’m capable of and like people expect me to play. Then once I go a year doing it and being consistent, that’s when you can really say the shoulder’s fine.”
Prescient of Zimmerman to say, really.
Once the season begins, and box scores become the focus, the first time Zimmerman shanks a throw to first, Nationals fans will view it with a leery eye, and immediately begin to wonder if his right shoulder can withstand the rigors of the 162-game grind.
If there’s a second throwing error, they’ll wonder: How long can the Nationals hold off moving Zimmerman to first?
On more than a 10- to 20-game basis.