The Washington Nationals prepared Ryan Zimmerman for a return to the majors Tuesday night at an unfamiliar position: left field. Zimmerman comes in having appeared 1,119 times at third base and once at shortstop over parts of 10 major league seasons.That's nearly 10,000 big-league innings, and all but nine at third base.
He's moving to left, at least temporarily, because his arthritic right shoulder makes it hard for Zimmerman to make the required throws consistently from third base. Zimmerman also has been on the disabled list because of a broken right thumb.
Zimmerman still will have an arthritic shoulder standing in left field, but at least he won't have to count on his arm as much out there in the pasture. He sounds confident enough about the switch, going by these quotes in the Washington Post:
He played three games in left field at Potomac, and each game it felt less foreign to Zimmerman. His lack of experience worried him, but he felt confident he could field balls and hit cutoff men with enough proficiency to keep his powerful bat in the lineup.
“I feel like I can be adequate and do a good job,” Zimmerman said. “I feel like I can do things to help us win. I think that’s the most important part.”
“I’m not going to be [Yasiel] Puig or anyone like that. But not too many people are.”
Denard Span said he's not worried about Zimmerman because he's played with some 'bad outfielders before.' #Nats— Chase Hughes (@chasehughesCSN) June 3, 2014
Oh, he didn't mean it like that! No matter, it's not really a matter of can Zimmerman play left field, but instead what happens once left fielder Bryce Harper comes back, perhaps around the All-Star break in July. With the other outfield spots covered by Denard Span in center and Jayson Werth in right, four would seem a crowd. Harper could move to center field, in theory, though that would compromise the team's defense.
And with Anthony Rendon playing third base most days, it is supposed to be his position in the future. Zimmerman still could go back to third, and Rendon could slide back to second — but then Zimmerman's shoulder issues haven't faded.
There's always talk of replacing Adam LaRoche at first base, and the thought with Zimmerman had been that first would be his future, but LaRoche is hitting better — by far — than any other Nats player.
At the moment, Zimmerman in left field is just a bridge until Harper gets back in a few weeks. But it's going to be a problem later.
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