No problems for Zimmerman in first game at first base

JUPITER, Fla. - It really wasn't much to get excited about, certainly not in Ryan Zimmerman's mind. All he did was play five innings at first base this afternoon in the Nationals' 4-2 Grapefruit League victory over the Marlins, albeit for the first time this spring.

Big deal?

"No, it was just kind of the timetable we mapped out," Zimmerman said. "It was just: Get out there and go. I'll be ready to play some more after this."

zimmerman-smile-red-hat-sidebar.jpgFrom a purely literal standpoint, what Zimmerman did today wasn't anything special. He successfully fielded the one ball hit in his direction, making a nifty short-hop scoop of Martin Prado's hard grounder. He caught five throws across the diamond from infielders. He went 1-for-3 at the plate, singling to right, driving a ball to the warning track in center and striking out looking.

But because this was his first appearance of the spring in the field, a response to the foot condition that plagued him much of last season, this was a more significant development than Zimmerman wanted to acknowledge.

The Nationals, taking an extremely cautious route, decided to hold Zimmerman back this spring. He insisted all along he could have played when the exhibition schedule commenced at the beginning of the month. Both sides felt he didn't need that much playing time, though, and so they pushed back his game action a couple of weeks.

Zimmerman, who did get at-bats as the Nationals designated hitter twice earlier this week, had been taking grounders with the rest of the team's starting infield throughout camp. There's no way to simulate true game conditions, though, so this was a step up in that regard.

It helped that the 31-year-old no longer feels like he's foreign to the position, having successfully made the transition from third to first base last season.

"I'm not worried about first base at all," he said. "Just the usual reps of going out there in spring training and getting some ground balls and getting back into the flow of the game, and that's it. Obviously having a whole year now, there's still a lot to learn. But I'm way, way further ahead than I was last year."

Zimmerman spent nearly two months on the disabled list last summer with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, but played well once he returned, thanks in part to a specially designed orthotic insert in his shoe and other treatment. (He hit .311 with 11 homers, 39 RBI and a 1.024 OPS in his final 39 games before his season was cut short in September due to an oblique strain.)

He said he continues to follow the same maintenance program this spring and to date has felt no ill effects from the condition in his foot.

"Nothing crazy," he said of his daily regimen. "Just staying on top of things, doing maintenance. That's about it. It's not a crazy program or anything like that. I'm just managing it, just like probably a ton of people do on every team for other things than what I have."

Manager Dusty Baker said the plan now is for Zimmerman to serve as DH on Thursday, then return to the field to play seven innings at first base on Friday, ramping up his workload over the final two weeks of camp.

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