It can be difficult adjusting to a new position, especially at the major league level. But in his first career game in left field, Washington Nationals’ third baseman and franchise face Ryan Zimmerman displayed an athletic ease that eased any doubts of his ability to master the change. For his entire career, Zimmerman’s play at third base earned him respect as one of the best young third baseman of this generation.
Zimmerman showed this adaptable skill on the first ball of the evening hit his way, a shallow line drive hit by Phillies’ second baseman Chase Utley in the top of the fourth inning. Zimmerman finished the evening 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles and a pair of putouts as the Nationals cruised to a 7-0 win over the struggling Philadelphia Phillies.
With Bryce Harper still on the DL with a thumb injury and not expected to return until after the All-Star break, the Nationals’ outfield needs all the help it can get. Washington has Jayson Werth firmly anchored in right field and Denard Span filling in well in center field, meaning that shifting Zimmerman back a position makes sense for the Nationals, both in terms of finding a place for Zimmerman’s commanding bat and protecting his health in the long term. Over the past several years, a series of serious issues plagued Zimmerman’s throwing shoulder, making it difficult at times for him to complete the basic function of a third baseman, throwing across the diamond. Less powerful sidearm throws became necessary for Zimmerman before the broken thumb sent him to the bench. Making long outfield throws could potentially arise as a problem down the line, but Zimmerman said he feels comfortable in his new spot.
Left field is Zimmerman’s home for now. Whether or not he stays there remains up in the air, according to manager Matt Williams. Based solely on the small sample size of tonight’s game, it looks like outfield success won’t be hard for Zimmerman to find.