Zimmerman ready to play first base for first time this spring

KISSIMMEE, Fla. - Ryan Zimmerman will make his spring debut at first base Wednesday, an important milestone for the Nationals, who also are making sure they're exploring several backup options at the position in case they're needed.

Zimmerman has been taking a slow approach to his preparation this spring, not wanting to aggravate the plantar fasciitis in his left foot that plagued him most of the 2015 season. Though he has taken grounders at first base and participated in most team defensive drills throughout camp, the 31-year-old has not yet appeared in the field during a Grapefruit League game, limited only to designated hitter duties each of the last two days.

zimmerman-infield-spring-training-sidebar.jpgThe plan for now, according to manager Dusty Baker: Zimmerman will start at first base Wednesday against the Marlins in Jupiter, then DH again Thursday against the Braves. If all goes well, he'll then ramp up his game action at first base.

"We've been waiting for this," Baker said. "I think we're going to play him at first base and then DH him maybe the next day. We've still got to watch him. I think he's doing pretty good."

With Zimmerman ready to return to the field, the Nationals are using today's game against the Astros as a final opportunity to look at one of his potential backup options: Daniel Murphy. The veteran infielder was signed to a three-year, $37.5 million contract over the winter to serve as the Nats' everyday second baseman, but he has experience at both first and third bases, and Baker wants to make sure he's ready for either position.

Baker said he views Clint Robinson as his primary backup at first base, but he does envision scenarios in which Murphy could be used there.

"If Zim is out, it'll probably be Robinson. He's a pretty good first baseman," Baker said. "But we might have to double-switch or something in a game. I told Murph that I would probably play him at third one day, too, in case (Anthony) Rendon is out or something. I like to have options. And I've got some pretty good options."

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