How do you replace Ryan Zimmerman at third base for the rest of the month?
Zimmerman's abdominal strain comes at a particularly bad time. He's red-hot with the bat on a team with a cumulative .217 average at the moment. I know, it's a pretty small sample size, but nonetheless, between his bat - and glove - he's irreplaceable with any one player on the Nats' 40-man roster.
So, once he's on the DL - a move still not made by 11 a.m. this Tuesday morning - what do they do to fill that slot on the 25-man?
Brian Bixler is playing shortstop at Syracuse. He has major league experience and had a decent spring with the big league club, batting .316 and playing a lot of third base. He's a possibility, though he's not on the 40-man roster, so a corresponding move would be necessary, most likely with a pitcher.
They could elevate Roger Bernadina as a spare outfielder and keep Jerry Hairston in the infield, though Hairston has only 66 career games at third base, many of those only an inning or two.
Might they look to obtain another infielder? You never say never with Mike Rizzo, but it's a longshot. You'd likely go after a veteran, a guy in his 30s who's a journeyman, and it's a short list insofar as third basemen are concerned. Russell Branyan? Jorge Cantu? I just don't see it.
Sometimes bad things happen to good people. Hopefully, the Washington offense shows some life before the first of May. Sometimes someone rises to the occasion, and carries the club on his back for a week or two. The efficiency shown by the starting rotation over the first week-and-a-half has to continue in order for the ballclub to stay anywhere close to break-even.
I know it's not a one-man show, but Zimmerman's presence - or absence - from the Nationals' lineup creates a pendulum swing unlike any other player on the team.