Over the last few weeks, the Nationals have finally started to get healthy. Slowly but surely, they’ve added stars like Juan Soto, Trea Turner, and Anthony Rendon back to their everyday lineup, and the wins have followed.
If everything goes according to plan, they could be close to adding yet another potential impact bat. This time, it’s Ryan Zimmerman.
The first baseman, who has been on the Injured List since April 28 while dealing with plantar fasciitis in his right foot, could begin his rehab assignment as soon as this weekend, according to his manager.
Zimmerman is getting closer to full health but is still experiencing discomfort while running. During batting practice Thursday, Zimmerman resumed baseball activities, and the plan is for him to run the bases before his minor-league assignment.
"If you're going to be out there playing, you've got to be able at least score on a normal base hit if you're on second, go first to third,” Zimmerman said Thursday. “You might not have to be 100 percent on all that, but you have to do normal, everyday activities, or you're not really helping the team.”
The priority in the minors will be playing nine full innings.
"I think the biggest thing with the rehab games is just getting on your feet for nine innings so the first time you're out there for nine innings isn't here, and you can play some games and make sure it doesn't act up,” the longtime National told reporters. “Because once you're activated and once you're between those white lines, it's game on. It's more I think for Davey [Martinez]. You don't want to put him in a bad spot. If he is managing without knowing if I have restrictions or without knowing what's going to happen, that puts him in a bad spot. That's not what you want to do."
Davey Martinez has rarely had his full complement of players in 2019. Zimmerman himself has already missed 47 games.
Of course, once he returns, the Nationals will have more decisions to make. Not only do the Nationals need to find a roster spot for Zimmerman (Gerardo Parra is a candidate to be the odd man out, despite some flashes in his time in Washington), but they also need to figure out the playing time.
Matt Adams has hit with a lot of power this season, and without the DH in the National League, is limited to first base, same as Zimmerman. Howie Kendrick has been the Nationals’ second-best hitter in 2019 and is one of the best surprises in baseball, but is also limited defensively. Kendrick has more versatility, but with Brian Dozier’s recent surge (and superior defense), the Nats will likely want to keep him there. And, of course, Rendon and Turner are entrenched on the left side of the infield.
It’s something Martinez will have to figure out, he’s already begun speaking with players about what the arrangement will look like.
For right now, it’s a problem for another day, but if Zimmerman’s rehab goes well that won’t be the case much longer.
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