WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — Ryan Zimmerman can begin inching back into the game of baseball, after the latest batch of X-rays on his injured right thumb granted him approval to resume regular baseball activities.
While the team hasn’t given any indication of an exact return date, it does appear him filling in for Bryce Harper in left field is becoming an increasingly realistic option for Zimmerman, who has never before played in a Major League outfield.
Jon Heyman reported Wednesday afternoon the Nationals have been formulating a plan to rotate the 29-year-old slugger between third base, first and left field upon his return, in an effort to better ensure his bat remains in the lineup.
Team general manager Mike Rizzo, who wouldn’t directly admit to such a plan in an interview with 106.7 The Fan’s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier on Wednesday, did allude to the possibility of Zimmerman spending some real time in left, further stoking the rumors which have been circulating for weeks.
“In the field, we’re going to see where he can contribute the most until Harper gets back and we have our full complement of everyday players, where he fits in best that gives us as many offensive weapons in the lineup as possible,” Rizzo said.
When asked if it was reasonable to deduce that could entail Zimmerman playing in left, Rizzo responded, “I’ve seen him run around out there. He looks pretty darn good out there for me, and a guy with his athletic ability can play anywhere on the field.”
“I scouted him as a shortstop at University of Virginia, and there was talk at draft time that this guy could play shortstop if he had to,” he said. “We all know he’s a Gold Glove-caliber third baseman, he’s taken balls at first base, he’s taken fly balls in the outfield. He’s a guy who can play anywhere, and more importantly, is willing to do anything and play anywhere, and do anything he has to do to help us win games, and that’s a huge statement from a veteran player with the caliber of Ryan Zimmerman.”
Zimmerman, however, has had his ability to play third base soundly hampered over the last two years due to chronic shoulder issues.
How would making longer throws from the outfield serve to alleviate those shoulder issues?
Rizzo had an answer to that.
“Well, we’ve seen him doing some long toss from the outfield,” he said. “In the outfield it’s much more of a overhand arm slot to get the carry on the ball. It could stretch his arm out and actually help him when he goes back to third base, but we just have to make sure his arm is right; he hasn’t thrown for a long time because of the thumb, so he’s getting back into shape there. Physically he looks tremendous.”