Martinez plans to start Zimmerman at least once in final series

Ryan Zimmerman is in the Nationals lineup tonight for the 47th time this season, the 44th time at first base. It appears he’ll make at least one more start this weekend during the final series of 2021, but manager Davey Martinez still doesn’t know exactly how the potentially retiring Face of the Franchise wants to handle his playing time down the stretch.

“We’re just taking it day by day,” Martinez said during his Zoom session with reporters before tonight’s game in Colorado. “I’d like to get a plan. He’s been very quiet about what he wants to do.”

Zimmerman-HR-Swing-Gray-Sidebar.jpgZimmerman, who turned 37 today, has made no public pronouncements about his intentions for 2022 and beyond. He suggested earlier this month he’s not likely to decide anything until the offseason, once he has a better sense if his body is up for another season, and once he has a sense of the Nationals’ roster plans.

But short of any official declaration, it’s entirely possible this is his final week in uniform, which is why Martinez wants to make sure he’s coordinating a gameplan with him.

“I talked to him last night and told him I wanted him to play today, and he was up for it,” the manager said. “So I wanted to give Josh (Bell) a day. He comes back tomorrow for a day game. We’ll see what happens. I’m going to try to get him in one day the last series at home.”

Zimmerman’s starts have actually been few and far between in the last month, with Bell getting the bulk of the playing time, including some games against opposing left-handers. Zimmerman has been fine with that, happy he’s been able to keep himself healthy throughout a full season. He has avoided a trip to the injured list for the first time since 2017 and only the second time since 2010.

He enters tonight with only 261 plate appearances, but he has performed well in this planned bench role, with a .749 OPS, 14 homers and 45 RBIs. He remains especially productive against lefties, boasting a .900 OPS over 111 plate appearances.

All of which has convinced his manager he can still play at least one more season, if he wants to.

“For me, there’s no doubt,” Martinez said. “I still think he has a lot left in the tank. His bat speed is still there. As you can see, he’s still one of the better first basemen, fielding-wise, in the game. He runs the bases well. It’s all up to him.

“I did everything I can to keep him healthy this year. It was awesome that he was able to stay off the IL all year long and participate. It was a good all-around year for him. And I told him: ‘What you did coming off the bench, it’s not easy. That’s a tough job.’ And I think he realizes that now.”

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