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.

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.

Carlos Martinez was hospitalized for respiratory problems over the weekend

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Last night Cardinals closer Carlos Martinez picked up his 20th save in his team’s win over the Nats. This past weekend was far less fun for him.

Martinez rejoined the team yesterday, two days after he was hospitalized to deal with respiratory issues that were ultimately determined to be allergies and asthma, which have given him issues over the past couple of years. Martinez said that he was having trouble breathing during Saturday’s game against the Brewers at Busch Stadium and went to the hospital for tests. He stayed overnight and was released on Sunday.

Yesterday was back to business. He came into the game with two outs in the ninth and threw only two pitches. Strike one to Ryan Zimmerman before getting him to line out to center field and end the game. Sure beats the hospital.