Washington Nationals Smart To Give Ryan Zimmerman A Chance At First Base

By James Williams
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

In case you were at Tyson Corner’s Mall Christmas shopping the other day and saw Washington Nationals star third baseman Ryan Zimmerman at Model’s sporting goods looking at first base mitts, not too worry. New manager Matt Williams spoke to him last week about playing at first base in spring training just to see how he likes playing on the other side of the diamond.

It has been long thought that when Adam La Roche‘s contract is done at the end of this season Zimmerman would move to first and Anthony Rendon would move from second base over to third which is, of course, his natural position.

Zimmerman has had arm problems in the past that have caused him to throw the ball all over the field at times, but the former Gold Glove winner seems to be his old self again heading into 2014.

Clearly most fans are aware that the way Zimmerman finished last season was strong enough to give both the Nationals and himself the feeling that his throwing issues are now over. That said, Williams, who himself was a Gold Glove and All-Star third baseman, wants to give Zimmerman some versatility.

The Nationals’ new skipper feels that if Zimmerman could spell regular first baseman La Roche when the team is facing tough left handed pitching that could be a plus for all involved.  Zimmerman, who is the ultimate team player, should be able to play the new position strong enough to justify moving him there full time in the future.

If Zimmerman can play a quality first base then the Nationals will not need to add another right handed bat to their bench. So this move by Williams was not to push Zimmerman out of his role as the team’s everyday third baseman; it was to expand his skills so if needed he could play that position.

The single most important takeaway here is that Zimmerman is very open to the idea of playing some first base and that he respects his new manager enough to give it a try, no questions asked. It also shows the respect that the players have for their new manager which is a great start before they even get to Florida for the start of spring training.

All are good signs as the Nationals get ready for 2014.

Rant Sports columnist James Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award winning producer, director and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Wordmandc and add him to your Google circles.

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