Zimmerman feels good after taking grounders at third base

Ryan Zimmerman was back at third base during pregame drills before the opener of a three-game series against the Brewers at Miller Park, and said he felt good after taking 15-20 ground balls at his former position.

“This is the first time I’ve thrown in - I don’t know, probably since I don’t remember. ... It’s been a while, just because there’s been no reason,” Zimmerman said. “But, yeah, it felt good. Everything went fine.”

Zimmerman said he would ramp up his activity at third base in fielding practice over the coming days, mostly to prepare for when outfielder Bryce Harper returns after surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb. Harper begins a minor league rehabilitation assignment with the Single-A Potomac Nationals tonight, and the Nationals are hoping he returns to the active roster sometime in the first week of July.

When that happens, it’s unclear exactly where Zimmerman will play - or if he will play one position on a routine basis. He’s been manning left field in Harper’s absence, and there is some talk that Harper could move to center field to allow Zimmerman to remain in left.

Nationals manager Matt Williams doesn’t know where Zimmerman will play, and doesn’t sound ready to commit to any specific plan.

“Everybody’s speculating at this point on what’s going to happen, and we don’t know yet,” Williams said. “We don’t know exactly where he’s going to play on any given day and I frankly can’t tell you. So he’s working in left, he’s working at first, he’s working at third and he’s willing to play anywhere he’s asked to play. And he wants to win desperately. And those are all good problems.”

Williams said Zimmerman’s appearance at third base was just a means of reacquainting him with the position he’s played most in the major leagues, and not a sign of things to come. Zimmerman needs to work on his leg strength before he could return even part-time to the hot corner, the manager said, and participating in these drills is a way to accomplish that while gauging Zimmerman’s shoulder and arm strength.

“He took some grounders at third, worked at left - typical stuff,” Williams said, outlining Zimmerman’s pregame regimen. “He looked good. Threw some balls across the infield. Looked fine. Today, his shoulder’s feeling pretty good, so today was over the top (and) he had good carry across the diamond. The lack of him having to do that every day (while playing in the outfield) has probably helped him a little bit.”

Zimmerman is willing to play wherever he is needed, Williams said, and is versatile and athletic enough that he’d be able to play left, first base or third base - or even fill in at shortstop, second base or right field if necessity dictated.

“I’ve talked to him about it, and he’s willing to do whatever is necessary for us to win,” Williams said. “So if that dictates that he’s got to play third one day and first one day or left one day, then he’s more than wiling and capable to do that. ... There aren’t any issues. He wants to win and he wants to play.”

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