As we noted yesterday, Ryan Zimmerman’s timetable for returning from his fractured thumb is up in the air, as his bum shoulder makes the resumption of throwing a much tougher proposition for him than doing so would for most rehabbing players. Now here’s a new wrinkle from Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post:
The Nationals are not saying anything publicly about a potential position change for Zimmerman, and no final decision has been reached. Internally, though, officials and coaches have discussed and considered the idea of Zimmerman – a former Gold Glove third baseman in the first year of a six-year, $100 million contract extension – playing left field.
Kilgore notes that Zimmerman has been shagging fly balls in the Nats outfield during batting practice while wearing an outfielder’s glove. Everyone is being cagey about it, but Nats’ officials aren’t saying it’s nothing either.
Kilgore makes the astute observations that (a) Zimmerman is likely to be back before Bryce Harper is, so him taking over left field could make sense in the short term; and (b) Denard Span has been atrocious on offense, making it possible that, once Harper returns, Zimmerman could stay in left field and Harper could take over center field, at least sometimes, to give the Nats an offensive boost.
Not the dumbest thing in the world. Although, given Zimmerman’s throwing issues, you have to figure runners would challenge him to gun them down as they race for home on basically every ball hit to left field.
The Athletics have hired former MLB manager Matt Williams, the team announced Friday. Williams will take over third base coaching duties under manager Bob Melvin, filling the vacancy left by Nationals’ bench coach Chip Hale after the 2017 season.
Williams is no stranger to the Bay Area, but this will be his first time sporting the green and gold. He got his start in pro ball with the rival Giants in 1987, where he manned third base and collected four All-Star nominations before jumping ship to the American League in 1997. After a one-year stint in the Indians’ organization, he returned to the NL to finish off his 17-season career and eventually hung up his cleats with the Diamondbacks in 2003.
Post-retirement, Williams has crafted a resume that almost over-qualifies him for a coaching gig. He led the Nationals to a cumulative 179-145 record from 2014 to 2015 and earned props as NL Manager of the Year after bringing the team to a first-place finish in 2014. In 2016, he split the season as a first and third base coach in the D-backs’ organization, then accepted a studio analyst position with the Giants for the 2017 season. Although he has yet to suit up for the Athletics in any role, he’s not unfamiliar with skipper Bob Melvin. The two were teammates on the Giants’ 1987-88 roster and spent some time in Arizona together when Melvin took a coaching job there in the early 2000s.
While next year’s reunion will be fun to watch (unless, I suppose, you’re a Giants fan with a long memory), Williams may not have his sights set on a coaching role forever. As the San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea reported back in July, the 51-year-old knows what it feels like to win as a manager, and it’s a position he might be open to pursuing in the future.
“For me, my most comfortable space is in uniform,” he told Shea. “I’ve done the ownership thing and front-office stuff, and that’s fun. The most gratification I get is swinging a fungo and throwing batting practice and being on the field. It’s what you know and love. I look at myself as a teacher first and foremost. At the end of the day, I think that’s how I have my greatest influence.”