Matt Williams removed Ryan Zimmerman from last night’s game for defensive reasons

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Bryce Harper’s return to the Nationals outfield meant Ryan Zimmerman had to shift from left field back to third base, where he was once a standout defender and is now a huge question mark because of chronic shoulder problems.

And last night manager Matt Williams removed Zimmerman from the game with a 4-3 lead in the eighth inning for defensive reasons, putting into focus the third baseman’s throwing issues and what the Nationals are truly dealing with going forward.

Williams shifted Anthony Rendon from second base to third base, where he played regularly when Zimmerman was in the outfield, and brought Danny Espinosa off the bench to play second base.

Asked afterward about the move, Williams told James Wagner of the Washington Post: “At that point, we want our finest defense in there. We want to make sure that in a tight game like that we do that.”

For his part, Zimmerman called it “the right move” and added:

I’m still getting used to playing third again. Like I’ve said the whole time, Anthony has played the hell out of third base and Danny is one of, if not the best, defensive second basemen in the game. If we’re up late in the game, I have no problem doing that. I think it gives us the best chance to win.

So expect to see Zimmerman removed from games in the late innings regularly, which would have sounded crazy just a couple years ago and still seems a little bit weird considering he’s one of the Nationals’ building blocks and owed another $86 million through 2019.

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Phillies sign Trevor Plouffe to minor league deal

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Infielder Trevor Plouffe has signed a minor league deal with the Phillies, Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News reports. Plouffe asked for and was granted his release from the Rangers earlier this month.

Plouffe, 31, had a double and a home run in 17 plate appearances with Triple-A Round Rock to start the 2018 season. He spent last year with the Athletics and Rays, putting up a meager .198/.272/.318 batting line in 100 games.

Plouffe has mostly played third base throughout his career, but can also handle the other three infield spots and both outfield corners, so he’ll serve as organizational depth at Triple-A Lehigh Valley for the Phillies.