Matt Williams shed some more light on his plan once Bryce Harper returns from the disabled list in a few weeks, a plan that could see several regular members of the lineup bounce around from position to position on a daily basis to maximize everyone’s playing time.
Harper’s return from surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament, expected to occur in early July, will leave the Nationals with a logjam unless they elect to move Ryan Zimmerman back to third base (and, by extension, Danny Espinosa to the bench) on a permanent basis.
Williams suggested Wednesday that the answer to this dilemma will be to have several regulars move among multiple positions. Zimmerman can play left field, third base and first base. Harper can play all three outfield positions. Anthony Rendon can play second and third bases. Espinosa can play second base and shortstop.
“When Bryce comes back and he’s ready to play, then Zim will play some third,” Williams said. “He’ll probably play some left. He’ll probably play some first. Anthony will play third and second. And we’ll kind of work our way through it, depending on who’s pitching and who needs a day (off). I would assume that Bryce will not only play left field, he may find himself in right and he may find himself in center sometimes.”
That scenario would allow Williams to give other members of the lineup who have played nearly every day this season more opportunities to take a day or two off.
“That’s what you want,” Williams said. “So I can give Denard a day, or Jayson a day. Then you can certainly do those types of things. It’s been difficult so far this season, because we’ve had so many guys injured. But it is what it is, and sometimes you have to deal with it. But it could potentially allow us to give some guys some rest, too.”
The challenge for Williams: Striking a balance between letting his star players get comfortable in one spot on the field and moving them around to other positions when the need arises.
“The good thing about our club is, they have experience,” the manager said. “Bryce has experience playing center field and he has experience playing right field. It’s not something that’s foreign to him, because he’s done it. Anthony can play third and second. Zim can play left and first. We’ve seen that, and he certainly has the hardware to prove he can play third. So it’s not like it’s something foreign.”
Though Harper’s return remains several weeks away, he has been increasing his on-field work in recent days. He worked in the outfield with coach Tony Tarasco on Wednesday afternoon and once again took swings in the underground cage. He hopes to start taking full batting practice on the field in the next few days.