PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — For all the talk this winter and this spring about a position switch for Ryan Zimmerman, the Nationals veteran wound up spending only two innings at first base in Grapefruit League play this year.
Even so, manager Matt Williams said he’s prepared to use Zimmerman at first base once the season begins, if the situation calls for it.
“I’m comfortable with him over there,” Williams said. “He’s fine. If, in fact, we have to go that route, we can.”
Though his only game action at first base came late in the Nationals’ March 16 game against the Tigers, Zimmerman has been spending plenty of time working at the new position, taking grounders and throws many mornings. He worked out at first base this morning, in fact, prior to the Nationals’ Grapefruit League finale against the Mets at Tradition Field.
“His footwork is great,” Williams said. “He’s done a lot of work that hasn’t been seen, because it’s on a back field. Early stuff. He’s good.”
Zimmerman may be comfortable enough to play first base in a big-league game, but the Nationals may not use him there as much as originally planned. Kevin Frandsen, acquired yesterday to serve as a utilityman off the bench, has experience at first base, and Williams suggested today the 31-year-old could be used there as Adam LaRoche’s primary backup.
“I think the main part of my thought process was just to make sure if, in fact, we got in a situation, we had somebody to play over there,” the manager said. “Now that Kevin is here, he certainly has experience. Zim has less experience. But I’m not afraid to [use Zimmerman]. He’s a fantastic athlete. He catches everything. If it calls for it, and we want to do that, we all feel comfortable we could accomplish that.”
Zimmerman was not in the Nationals’ lineup for their final spring training game. Williams said he is dealing with stomach soreness, the result not of an injury but of an illness. Zimmerman, who has been wearing an ice pack around both his stomach and right shoulder in recent days, is expected to play in Saturday’s exhibition game against Detroit at Nationals Park.