After a couple of days of rest, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman returned to the starting lineup and will debut for the first time this season a new three-quarter throwing motion.
"It feels good," Zimmerman said. "I think that is one of the reasons why we decided to go ahead and try it. It is not as stressful as the arm angle that is higher. So, we figured we would give that a try.
"It is good. It is a different throw. It is a work in progress. But there is no pain. Just got to keep working. Do everything we can to make it work."
Zimmerman was asked if he felt that he might have to deal with shoulder issues all season long.
"That is a good question," Zimmerman said. "I don't know. There is really no way to know. I think that is the most frustrating part is sometimes it feels fine and sometimes it doesn't. There is really no way to know. That is probably the toughest part of it to be honest with you."
Have the doctors given him advice on the shoulder?
"The doctors? No, they say (I) played baseball too long," Zimmerman smiled. "There is really no cure for that."
Zimmerman was the first to admit this is only the first step in the process. The shoulder soreness is a complicated situation. He can swing and not feel it. The next inning, he can pick up a grounder and try to fire it to first base and feel excruciating pain. He even admitted he doesn't know how the new throwing motion will play long term. He has tried the three-quarter motion in the past.
"I have gone through this for awhile now," Zimmerman said. "So you can't get too relieved. It is a constant work in progress. It is tough but for now we found something I think that has a chance to work without it hurting. That is a relief because I want to be out there and I want to help the team win. When I can't do that it is frustrating."
Zimmerman said having a manager who played third base in the majors for a long time also helps. As he worked in the new throw the last two days, manager Matt Williams noticed the familiar three-quarter angle throw, and told Zimmerman to try to repeat that form every throw, not just to first base.
"That was what Matty was saying," Zimmerman said. "It doesn't hurt when I throw to second or when I come in and get the ball. He said why don't you try to do that all the time. He threw three-quarters and he said Cal (Ripken, Jr.) threw that way a little bit. We will play around with it and see if it works."
First baseman Adam LaRoche caught the throws from Zimmerman from the three-quarter arm angle and liked what he saw so far.
"Anything he can do to get that pain out of his shoulder I think is what he is searching for now," LaRoche said. "From the sound of it he is way more comfortable. He doesn't have that bone on bone or whatever grinding in his shoulder that has been barking, it doesn't do that from down there. So, I think he is going to work on that for a little while and we will go from there."
LaRoche confirmed Zimmerman's new throwing motion produced much better velocity than he had seen from the throws during games this season.
"A lot stronger," LaRoche said. "That was the first thing I noticed. He had a lot more life and zip back on the ball. It is like anything, it is going to take practice. But for day two of throwing from down there, which you guys look at it and you see him throw from down there a lot, but it is totally different when you are on the move and the body is in different position. You are talking about taking a routine ground ball and turning and throwing from down there, it is something he hasn't down before. It just had a lot more life coming out of his hands."
LaRoche said Zimmerman playing in more at third base will help get the ball off sooner and instead use his quick hands to snag liners he would normally wait for.
"He has learned from playing hundreds of games he can cheat in because of his hands and how good his glove is," LaRoche said. "He can play it at a lot shallower depth than most third baseman. So, he is getting the ball a lot quicker which allows him a little more time to get rid of it and time for the ball to get over."
"I don't know," Zimmerman said of adjusting where he will play players who get out of the box quickly. "We will find out. But we will adjust accordingly. Obviously, if there is a speed guy up, I may not play as a deep as I normally play because you have to watch out for the bunt. We will adjust as we go."
LaRoche said Zimmerman playing closer to or on the grass might also have another benefit.
"If anything it is going to be quicker because he has more life on the ball," LaRoche said. "If he is confident with it, than it is going to work out. So far, he likes it."