WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — Off the heels of Ryan Zimmerman’s professional outfield debut in his return to the Nationals lineup, after missing 44 games with a broken thumb, manager Matt Williams found high praise for his third baseman-turned-left fielder.
Zimmerman was 2-for-4 with 2 doubles and an RBI in his 11th game of the season, in Washington’s 7-0 victory over Philadelphia Tuesday night.
After repeated attempts by the organization to shoot down rumors of Zimmerman playing outfield in the days leading up to his return, despite him being seen shagging flies during pre-game warm-ups, Williams finally admits that was the plan all along.
“As soon as he started going out there,” Williams said of when he knew Zimmerman could play outfield. “There was a reason that he was going out there. We played it off as conditioning a little bit.”
“Boredom,” EB jumped in.
“Yea, but there was a reason for it, because, one: his thumb, we don’t want to make a bunch of throws during the course of a game,” Williams said. “And the outfielders certainly don’t throw as much as the infielders throw; I didn’t want him diving in the infield and re-injuring it, because that’s kind of how he injured it in the first place. So we wanted to give him that.”
“But then we saw him out there shagging and running around, and thought, ‘Hmm, it’s viable.’ So, he’s a great athlete, you guys. He can do anything off the diamond that he wants to do, so, it was a no-brainer, in the interim basis.
“He may play first; he may play third during the course of this time that Bryce is still out, but he was open to it and he worked at it, and so we thought we’d do it. He made a couple of nice plays last nice.”
Asked if he’d ever entertained the idea of playing Zimmerman at second base, Williams said the idea is not preposterous.
“It’s more of a jump to play second, because your back is turned, certainly to a runner,” Williams said. “Everything is backwards on that side of the diamond, so if you need to turn two, it’s completely opposite than he’s done his whole life; he has to turn the other way.
“He runs risk, certainly, of getting injured. You’ve seen second basemen just get plowed. There’s a myriad of reasons why it’s not necessarily the right thing, or it would take longer to do.”
“But do you think, athletically, he’s capable of doing it if it was something that made sense?” EB asked.
“Athletically, yes,” Williams replied. “Athletically, he’s capable of doing anything on the diamond; he could catch. But there’s a progression to all of it, and it would take a long time. We, for this instance, simply didn’t have time to do something like that, to take the time to have him play it enough. We want him back in the lineup as quickly as possible.”
Other notes and quotes:
*Jordan Zimmermann, who pitched 8 solid innings, giving up 5 hits and no runs, while striking out 4 batters and only walking 1 in the Nationals 7-0 victory over the Phillies, achieved the performance he’d been aspiring towards all season.
“Again, I don’t have this huge history that everyone else has with him,” Williams said. “But last night was kind of vintage Zimm. That’s what everybody told me last night, that’s how he pitched last year. So it’s been great to see, I mean he can be dominating.”
*On the media attention devoted to Ryan Zimmerman’s outfield debut:
“You should have seen it last night. It was Game 7 of the World Series press there. Everybody.”
*On the Nationals crippling injury woes:
“It doesn’t make me crazy, but it does keep me up at night,” Williams acknowledged. “It’s interesting that, the way we had it planned all spring, that lineup is very formidable. And then you lose a bunch of guys, and it’s not easy. I commend the guys that played for them, because they really played well. They really did well, but it’s nice to have your fellas, you know? It’s nice to put it back together.”
*Asked if there’s a scenario in which the Nationals could retain Adam LaRoche — LaRoche and the team hold a mutual option for a third year, to be or not to be exercised at the conclusion of the season — Williams appeased.
“No, of course there’s a scenario, yea,” Williams said. “Have you seen the guy play?”
When the hosts insisted Zimmerman’s arm won’t recover, warranting an eventual permanent move for him to first base, currently blocked by La Roche, Williams said, “Don’t be so sure of that. Don’t be so sure that his arm won’t be better. That’s what I would say.”
Fast-forward to the six-minute mark for the audio.