6/3/2014 12:16 A.M. ET
Zimmerman ready to play outfield for Nationals
Rehabbing third baseman up for challenge of new position coming off DL
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
WOODBRIDGE, Va. -- Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman made perhaps his final rehab start for Class A Advanced Potomac on Monday night, going 2-for-4 while playing left field in a 5-4 victory over Salem.
The game was uneventful for Zimmerman, who made one putout in the sixth inning, a routine fly ball hit by Aneury Tavarez. Zimmerman made the catch without any problems.
"You go through games where you don't get much," Zimmerman said after the game. "I got a regular fly ball tonight. I'll get more used to it each day."
Zimmerman has been on a rehab assignment with Potomac since Friday, and he was told if things went well Monday, the Nationals will activate him from the 15-day disabled list before Tuesday's game against the Phillies. Zimmerman started the rehab assignment by becoming a designated hitter and then started playing the outfield by Saturday. Zimmerman most likely will be in the starting lineup in left field Tuesday.
"I haven't really talked to [manager] Matt [Williams] or [general manager] Mike [Rizzo] about that," Zimmerman said. "Obviously, Bryce [Harper] is going to be out a little while longer. We'll see what happens when I get up there and we'll see what they say. I'm ready to play wherever they want me to play."
Zimmerman said his biggest concern is not having enough experience playing the position. He never played the outfield prior to this year. The organization feels he is a good enough athlete to play the position. During practice Monday, Zimmerman was good at going back on fly balls.
"Everyone thinks it's easy to catch the ball and throw it back in," Zimmerman said. "But there are a lot of situations that you have to think about before the ball is hit. It's no secret I don't have a lot of experience in that area. I'm going to keep learning every day, get the ball to the right base, get the ball to the right cutoff man and let them do the job."
Zimmerman is dealing with a bad right shoulder and he said that he is not concerned that the Phillies, for starters, will try to take the extra base on him.
"It's a different throw," he said. "I can get my momentum going. I can use my legs a lot more. Unless the ball comes right to me, if the ball goes to the wall and in the gap, I'll throw the ball to the cutoff man and let him do the job from there. But as far as practicing all the throws I need to make, I practiced those, I made them all. I'm not going to be [Yasiel] Puig, but not too many people are. There are a handful of guys who can really throw in the outfield. It's just my job to make the routine play. I can do my job that way."
Zimmerman spent most of his rehab assignment under the tutelage of outfield coordinator Gary Thurman, who said Zimmerman is excited about playing a new position and wants the ball hit to him. On Sunday, for example, Zimmerman ran a long way to catch a ball that should have been caught by the shortstop.
"He wants the baseball. He is not afraid of it. So that is a positive," Thurman said.
Once he is activated from the disabled list, Zimmerman brings power to left field, which the team hasn't had since Harper tore ligaments in his left thumb in late April.
The Nationals were thinking about Zimmerman in the outfield ever since he started taking fly balls out there several weeks ago while his thumb was still in a cast. Zimmermann missed almost two months of action because of a fractured right thumb he hurt against the Braves on April 12. He said the thumb feels great.
"The thumb is not swollen really any more," Zimmerman said. "I've never really broken a bone or done anything like that. As far as strength, grip and everything like that, it feels fine."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashinNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.