Ryan Zimmerman will move back to third base when Bryce Harper gets healthy

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Ryan Zimmerman has been playing left field for the Nationals since coming off the disabled list last week, but manager Matt Williams made it clear that he’ll return to third base once Bryce Harper is ready to come off the disabled list himself.

Here’s what Williams told Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post:

We got a pretty good outfielder hopefully coming back really soon. The perfect world is, Zim would go back to third, where he’s played a long time and won a Gold Glove. And when Harp’s ready, Harp will play left. That’s the plan.

Of course, “coming back really soon” in Harper’s case means early July, so it’ll be several more weeks still until it’s an actual issue for the Nationals. Zimmerman moving back to third base would also mean Anthony Rendon moving back to second base and Danny Espinosa going to the bench.

However, it may not be quite that simple because, as Kilgore writes, Zimmerman has seemed very happy with his move to the outfield and has hinted that there’s some reason to doubt if his chronic shoulder problems can still handle third base regularly. Something tells me this whole thing won’t go exactly as Williams’ “plan” suggests.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉