Ryan Zimmerman has struggled with his throws from third base all season following offseason shoulder surgery, committing a league-high 12 throwing errors while also rating very poorly in advanced defensive metrics.
Nationals manager Davey Johnson indicated yesterday that it could cause the former Gold Glove third baseman to eventually move across the diamond to first base, telling Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post:
I knew it was going to take until June, but obviously it’s taken longer. It’s more about him–if you see him throw early, he throws deeper and throws the ball on line. But I don’t know if it’s physical or mental. Because I see him throw pretty good, and in the game he’ll want to get a lot of air under it. If that doesn’t get better, then obviously it’s not a good spot for him to be in. But at one time, he had a cannon. And we’re all waiting for him to come back and get over it.
Johnson also noted that he thinks Zimmerman’s range has declined because he’s playing in further to give himself shorter throws to make. Not exactly what you want to hear about a one-time stud third baseman whose six-year, $100 million extension doesn’t even kick in until next season.
Zimmerman is certainly a good enough hitter to make an impact at first base, but his overall value there would be considerably lower. This season MLB first basemen have a .773 OPS, compared to a .731 OPS from third basemen. Zimmerman has an .827 career OPS, including a .775 mark this year, so he’d go from being significantly above average at third base to slightly above average at first base. And his potential defensive contributions would drop too.
Yankees first baseman Greg Bird gave his team tons of confidence to hand him the everyday job at first base to start the 2017 regular season, batting .451/.556/1.098 with eight home runs in 51 spring at-bats. But he’s followed that up by hitting .107/.254/.214 through the first month of the regular season.
GM Brian Cashman doesn’t have any intent to demote Bird back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports. Cashman said, “It’s not even an option for me in my mind right now, at all.”
Bird didn’t start Sunday’s game against the Orioles, a 7-4 loss in 11 innings. Lefty Wade Miley started for the Orioles, prompting manager Joe Girardi to put Chris Carter into the lineup at first base. If Bird isn’t able to figure things out, Carter might have an increased role on the team.
Rays starter Chris Archer threw his first pitch to Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista behind the slugger’s back with one out in the first inning of Sunday afternoon’s game in Toronto. Bautista and Archer then had a staredown. Home plate umpire Jim Wolf issued warnings to both teams. Bautista ultimately flied out to right field and he appeared to have a quick word with Archer on his way back to the dugout.
Archer could have been exacting revenge — euphemistically known as “protecting his teammate” — because Jays reliever Joe Biagini hit Rays outfielder Steven Souza in the seventh inning of Saturday’s game. Souza was forced to leave the game and underwent an X-ray, which came back negative. He was held out of Sunday’s lineup. Biagini’s pitch did not appear to be intentional.
The Jays won Sunday’s contest 3-1 with no further incident. The two clubs meet again in Tampa for a three-game series starting on May 5, so we’ll see if Sunday was the last of the bad blood between them.