ryan zimmerman getty

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


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.

Editor’s Note: Hardball Talk‘s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $25,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Thursday night’s MLB games. It’s $25 to join and first prize is $5,000. Starts at 7:05pm ET on ThursdayHere’s the FanDuel link.

Tigers GM Al Avila confirms that his son likely won’t be back next year

Detroit Tigers' Alex Avila, right, is congratulated by third base coach Dave Clark after his solo home run in the third inning in the second game of a baseball doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox, Monday, Sept. 21, 2015, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
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After seven seasons in Detroit, impending free agent catcher Alex Avila will likely be playing elsewhere next season. Avila’s father, Tigers general manager Al Avila, confirmed as much in his comments to the media Thursday.

Here’s a quote from Chris Iott of MLive.com:

“I don’t really see it as a priority,” Al Avila said Thursday during a season-ending meeting with media members. “Right now, (James) McCann is our starting catcher and (Bryan) Holaday is coming back but is out of options. Basically, Holaday has to be our backup catcher or he’s out of options.”

Avila has had a heck of a run in Detroit, including an All-Star appearance in 2011, but this is a business and it’s logical why the Tigers are moving on. The 28-year-old dealt with knee problems this season while batting just .191 with four home runs and a .626 OPS in 219 plate appearances. He actually had more walks (40) than he did hits (34) while falling into a backup role.

With McCann now at the top of the depth chart and Holaday as his projected backup, Avila believes that his son will likely find an opportunity on the open market “that might be more beneficial to him.”

Adrian Beltre unsure if he’ll be ready for Game 3 of the ALDS

Texas Rangers' Adrian Beltre takes batting practice during baseball practice in Toronto, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015. The Blue Jays start the American League Divisional Series against the Texas Rangers in Toronto on Thursday. (Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press via AP
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Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre sat out Game 2 of the ALDS on Friday due to a lower back strain and he told Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News that he’s unsure whether he’ll be ready to return when the series resumes Sunday in Arlington.

“I can’t really say,” Beltre said after sitting out the Rangers’ 6-4 14-inning win over Toronto on Friday because of a lower back strain. It got a little better as the game went on. But I can’t say if I will be ready to play or not.”

Beltre tweaked his back on a slide into second base in the first inning of Game 1 on Thursday. He received a cortisone injection in an effort to stay in the game, but his back locked up on him again while running to first base on an RBI single in the third inning. While he was in a lot of pain at the time, Rangers manager Jeff Banister said that there’s been “some improvement” since. Beltre was able to take a few swings off the tee during Game 2 yesterday.

There’s obviously no replacing someone like Beltre, but the Rangers have managed to grab a 2-0 series lead over the Blue Jays without him. His replacement, Hanser Alberto, committed an error yesterday which opened the door for two runs to score, but he later redeemed himself with a go-ahead RBI single in the 14th inning.

Video: Jacob deGrom pranks Daniel Murphy in postgame press conference


After dominating the Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLDS last night with 13 strikeouts over seven scoreless innings, Jacob deGrom‘s best performance might have been pranking Daniel Murphy in the postgame press conference.

As you’ll see in the video below, deGrom sat down between David Wright and Murphy. Wright appears to lower the seat of the shaggy-haired right-hander. This gave deGrom the idea to do the same for an unsuspecting Murphy. The reaction was priceless…

Yes, Murphy let out a “yowzers.” Appropriately enough, “yowzers” is likely how the Dodgers would summarize facing deGrom last night.