VIERA, Fla. -- His right shoulder nearly 100 percent following offseason surgery, Ryan Zimmerman plans to tweak his throwing mechanics this spring, going back to a more natural motion now that he's no longer restricted.
Davey Johnson's reaction upon learning that news from his star third baseman: "Hallelujah."
"That sounds great to me," the Nationals manager said. "I want [him] to do things naturally and not think them through."
Zimmerman's awkward mechanics -- they seemed more like a series of gears shifting into place rather than one fluid motion -- led to 19 errors last season, 12 of them on throws, and became a source of frustration for him.
"Obviously, sometimes it didn't look so good," he said. "It was probably the first time I ever felt uncomfortable on a baseball field at any time. But we battled through it. The training staff and all those guys did a great job helping me get through. Having that in the past and being able to work now, kind of starting fresh, it's refreshing."
Afflicted with a sprained AC joint since April, Zimmerman was able to salvage his season through a series of cortisone shots. Those shots didn't heal the injury, only masked the pain in an attempt to let the sixth-year veteran participate in the first pennant race of his career.
Zimmerman was able to get his offensive game back on track -- he hit .321 with 22 homers, 73 RBI and a .967 OPS over his final 90 games -- but never fully felt comfortable in the field.
"We did anything and everything last year to kind of duct tape the problem," he said. "We did a good job. To get back to free and natural, the way everyone else throws a baseball, is the goal. That will kind of let me get back to what I was."
Zimmerman isn't all the way back to that point yet. He hasn't yet fully participated with the rest of his early arriving position players and this morning worked out on his own inside Space Coast Stadium, making 25 throws from 60 feet and 25 throws from 75 feet.
He'll continue to ramp things up until he catches up with everyone else, and he won't be on the field when the Grapefruit League opens on Feb. 23, but he insists he'll be 100 percent well in advance of Opening Day.
"I haven't talked to Davey, but I can probably promise you I won't be playing Feb. 23.," he said. "But I will be ready. I get 50 at-bats, that's pretty much what I do in spring. There's no reason that I won't get that -- a normal spring training -- and be ready to go April 1."
When that day comes, the Nationals will gladly welcome back one of the most complete third basemen in the sport.
"I think he feels whole again," Johnson said. "When you have something wrong with your arm, you're very careful about how you do it. The natural way to come back from something like that once you get healthy is: You don't think about it, you just do it. And that's what he's on path to do. So I feel good about that."