Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman made his spring training debut this afternoon against the Cardinals. The veteran underwent off-season surgery to fix the acromioclavicular joint in his right shoulder, which ailed him throughout most of the 2012 season. It was particularly noticeable in the first half, when Zimmerman hit eight homers and posted a .694 OPS in 308 plate appearances. The second half went much better as he hit 17 homers and posted a .945 OPS in 332 PA.
In this afternoon’s outing, Zimmerman singled once in three at-bats but did not play the field, instead slotting in the lineup as the Nationals’ designated hitter. MLB.com’s Joey Nowak expects this to be the case going forward:
He’ll likely be in the lineup only as a designated hitter every other day, alternating with rehabbing catcher Wilson Ramos, for a few more weeks until Zimmerman builds up throwing strength.
Zimmerman kept himself in the lineup last season by getting a cortisone shot at the end of June, helping lead the Nationals to an NL East crown. He hit .381 with two home runs in the post-season against the St. Louis Cardinals. It is expected that the third baseman will be ready by Opening Day as the Nationals resume their quest for NL dominance.
According to STATS, INC., the average game in 2015 was 2 hours, 56 minutes. That’s six minutes faster than games in 2014.
The gains came in the first half, when games averaged 2:53. Second half games averaged three hours even. One can probably thank the expanded rosters in September for that, as games then see many more pitching changes. Of course, it’s likely that second half games were faster in 2015 than 2014 as well given the rules changes.
Those changes: agreement to enforce the rule requiring a hitter to keep at least one foot in the batter’s box and the installation of clocks timing pitching changes and between-inning breaks in ever ballpark.
It remains to be seen if MLB stays satisfied with that modest improvement or if chooses to go the way Triple-A and Double-A leagues did. They installed 20-second pitch clocks and started penalizing violators with balls and strikes. Triple-A’s two leagues, the International and Pacific Leagues, saw game-time decreases by 13 and 16 minutes, respectively.
I’m so old I remember when general managers used to run baseball operations departments. Now they’re basically assistants.
The latest example: the Oakland Athletics have promoted Billy Beane to vice president of baseball operations and have named David Forst general manager. Forst has been with the A’s for 16 years and has been Beane’s assistant for 12 years, so it’s not exactly a situation in which Forst will be making the final calls. The official move came today, though the move has been in the works for some time, it seems.
Someone with a lot of good front office access is going to write a good story this winter about the title inflation going on in Major League Baseball over the past year. And it’s gonna be great when one of his or her sources breaks the pattern of saying “well, baseball transactions are so much more complex these days . . . ” and admits “hey, if Theo gets a fancy title and La Russa gets a fancy title I WANT A FANCY TITLE TOO.”
Not that it’s much of a secret as it is.