By all accounts, the experiment of putting Ryan Zimmerman in left field has been a relative success for the Nationals. Though his natural position is third base, he has shown the athletic ability to more than hold his own while working in a larger space.
One thing that had eluded Zimmerman for several weeks, however, was the opportunity to make a difficult throw from the outfield. Zimmerman has a well-documented history of issues throwing from third base to first, which brought an interesting angle to the equation.
On Thursday night, though, the Atlanta Braves opted on several occasions not to test Zimmerman's arm from left. Braves third base coach Doug Dascenzo chose to play it safe a few times with baserunners eyeing home plate.
Nats manager Matt Williams said on Friday that he was not surprised by that strategy. He thinks Zimmerman has more than enough to be a threat out there.
"Every team has tape, so they can go look at what he's doing," Williams said. "But you're not just going to run just to run because he's got the ability to throw them out. The fact that he's out there and playing well helps in that regard."
The two best examples happened in the eighth inning of the Nats' 3-0 loss Thursday night.
The first came with Freddie Freeman on second base and Evan Gattis at the plate facing Jerry Blevins. Gattis pulled a single to left field and Freeman first rounded third before trotting back to the base. Zimmerman hit the cutoff man as the Braves settled with runners on the corners.
The second chance came one batter later with Jason Heyward up. Heyward hit a flyball to Zimmerman that was caught about halfway from the infield to the fence. Freeman was on third and opted to stay there as the ball landed in Zimmerman's glvoe.
Both situations were right there for the Braves to test Zimmerman. With a two-run lead at the time and no outs, they could have taken the chance. Instead, they didn't.
"You can just run, you can just continue to run, but that doesn't mean you're going to be safe," Williams said.
Zimmerman is exceeding expectations in left field, but with the impending return of Bryce Harper, could see another position change. Williams says Zimmerman is working at third base every other day with an eventual move back to the infield in mind.
"He's started the progression," Williams said. "He's done that a little bit and he'll continue to do so as we go on the road trip in anticipation of Harp coming back. That's still unclear, we don't know when that will be, but every other day he's getting some work."
Once Harper returns, it could change everything. But for now Zimmerman appears more than capable of holding down the fort in left while he recovers.
Harper, Ramos getting closer to rehab games
Matt Williams watched Bryce Harper and Wilson Ramos take batting practice on the field at Nats Park Friday and believes both are close to beginning their minor league rehab schedules.
Ramos - who is recovering from a sore right hamstring - could play as soon as Saturday night. Harper could test his surgically repaired left thumb in a minor league game sometime next week when the Nats are on the road in Milwaukee.
"Everything is on schedule. Wily's leg feels good," Williams said. "Bryce's thumb was a little bit tender, not in surgical area but on the back side, which is to be expected. He's doing a lot of strength stuff. But he was able to swing today with no issues and drive the ball. He's right on schedule. Everybody's good. We'll look at their plans in the next day or so and figure out what we're going to do."