Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post explains:
In an effort to move [Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman] along slowly, [manager Davey Johnson] plans to use Zimmerman as a designated hitter early in the spring. He does not expect Zimmerman to be able to play defense in a game until two weeks into the Grapefruit League schedule.
Zimmerman underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right (throwing) shoulder in late October. He played catch at a distance of 75 feet on Tuesday at Nationals camp in Flordia but he isn’t ready yet to make high-pressure throws across the diamond in a game setting.
“He knows what he needs to do,” Washington manager Dave Johnson told reporters on Tuesday afternoon in camp. “If you talk to him, he’ll say he’s right on track to get where he wants to be Opening Day.”
Zimmerman, 28, batted .282/.346/.478 with 25 homers and 95 RBI in 145 games last season.
Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.
Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.
The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.