Zimmerman taking team-first approach to first base
Updated at 2:55 p.m.
VIERA, Fla. — Ryan Zimmerman went through his first-ever defensive drill at first base Tuesday morning, learning how to pick throws in the dirt as the former Gold Glove third baseman begins the slow process of familiarizing himself with a new position.
"It felt good," he said. "Pretty easy."
There wasn't a whole lot to the early-morning drill at Space Coast Stadium. Zimmerman took turns with natural first basemen Adam LaRoche and Tyler Moore scooping throws from manager Matt Williams, a rudimentary drill that didn't feel all that different from drills he has been doing for years on the other side of the diamond. The only differences: a new mitt with a lot more webbing and some adjustments to his footwork.
"Just catch the ball. That's what we've been doing our whole lives," Zimmerman said. "You've just got to work on the footwork and get comfortable over there. Once you're done with that, getting comfortable, then it's just second nature."
Williams emerged from the session impressed with the 29-year-old's ability to snatch up tricky throws.
"He's got great hands, man," the manager said. "So he's really good at it."
Zimmerman hasn't fielded any grounders at first base yet, and he won't be appearing in any Grapefruit League games over there until he has had plenty more time to familiarize himself better with the nuances of the position.
The Nationals, though, would like to get Zimmerman to the point where he could play 15-to-20 games at first base this season, giving LaRoche some days off and potentially laying the groundwork for a permanent position switch sometime down the road.
Zimmerman, who went through some well-documented struggles at third base early last season while still recovering from shoulder surgery, has embraced the idea and is willing to take more time this spring to prepare himself for more playing time at first base.
"I'm going to continue to do that and just be ready so if the opportunity does come up, I'm ready to go," he said.
"It's a progression," Williams said. "But he's certainly willing to do it, and he's excited about doing it. And if we get a chance to put him over there for a couple of innings this spring, we'll do that."