05/25/08 3:35 PM ET
Boone moves to productive bench role
Veteran has made smooth shift from All-Star to reserve
By Zachary Osterman / MLB.com
The former All-Star third baseman spent last year in Florida and this year in Washington serving as a utility player, shifting between first and third while not playing every day for the first time in his career. Despite reduced playing time, Boone said he's enjoying his newfound role.
"I think we all want to play every day," Boone said before Washington's game against Milwaukee on Sunday. "I don't have any expectations, other than to try and be the best I can be and trying to enjoy playing baseball, and I'm doing that."
He's doing it well, too. In 67 at-bats entering Sunday's game, Boone was third on the team with a .313 average, which is the best average of any player with as many trips to the plate. He also had three home runs and nine RBIs.
Nationals manager Manny Acta said Sunday that Boone's smooth transition to the role of bench player has been "tremendous" for Washington this season.
"I think we saw that coming last year in Florida," Acta said. "He did a very good job for them, filling in at third and first and coming off the bench. He just picked up where he left off last year."
Boone has played mostly at first base this season -- as he did Sunday, spelling starter Dmitri Young -- because Ryan Zimmerman is firmly entrenched as the club's franchise player and third baseman. But with Zimmerman getting days off periodically throughout the season to stay fresh, and first baseman Nick Johnson on the disabled list with a torn tendon in his right wrist, Boone looks poised to see more playing time as the season progresses.
Boone took full advantage of his start Sunday, notching two hits in his first three at-bats, including a two-run home run in the fifth inning.
As for becoming an everyday player again, that's something that doesn't weigh too heavily on Boone's mind. He said he's just interested in being the best player the Nationals need him to be right now.
"If that means [playing every day] some day, great. If not, it doesn't matter to me," Boone said. "I'm trying to be the best I can be today. It's as simple as that."
Zachary Osterman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.