Nationals third baseman says 'It is a learning process'

June 05, 2011|By BOB PARASILITI |
  • Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman plays with the Hagerstown Suns Sunday at Municipal Stadium.
By Colleen McGrath/Staff Photographer

Ryan Zimmerman came to play for the Hagerstown Suns on Sunday for the same reasons as every other player on the roster.

He needed to learn something about the game of baseball.

Zimmerman, the star third baseman for the Washington Nationals, continued his rehabilitation from a torn abdominal muscle by playing five innings for the Suns in their 6-5 victory over Greensboro. He did it with all the flair of a major leaguer, going 2-for-2 with two extra-base hits, a walk and an RBI before a sellout crowd at Municipal Stadium.

"It was good to get back," Zimmerman said in his mid-game press conference. "I'm still a little sore. It is a learning process, but this is a good first step."

Zimmerman has been sidelined since April 9, when he tore his stomach muscle while sliding into a base. He tried to rest the injury, but then opted to have it surgically repaired. He spent last week working out in extended spring training before taking the field with the Suns on Sunday.

Every step back continues to be that learning process.

"The biggest thing I've had to learn through all this is patience," Zimmerman said. "This all made me grow up a bit. I had to learn the difference between bumps and bruises. Hitting is the first thing that comes back to me. I have to get back into shape."

Zimmerman's appearance was to be Nationals fans' first glimpse of the future as he batted third, in front of Bryce Harper, in Hagerstown's order. That lasted all of five outs as Harper was hit in the leg with a pitch with two outs in the first and left the game just after Zimmerman's walk.

"He'll be all right," Zimmerman said. "I think he will be back tomorrow. It was a precaution. I think he wants to be back in the game right now."

Zimmerman helped stake the Suns to an early 6-2 lead as he scored after walking in the first. He hit an RBI double into right-center in the second and followed with a triple to right-center in the fourth, scoring on Wade Moore's RBI triple.

"I need to get back into game shape," Zimmerman said. "I was out of breath after that triple. That's the stuff you have to do. You have to score from second and breathing hard for a half inning after that. I'm just excited being out there and playing again."

Part of Zimmerman's learning process stems on defense. He is working on making changes on the way he fields and makes throws from third base.

Right now, it has been difficult while he finishes healing from the surgery. Zimmerman only had two balls hit in his direction during the game, but he did some pregame work with the Suns.

"Throwing hurts the most," Zimmerman said. "It is the last thing to come back. Running is OK and hitting is OK. It's just a matter of being more efficient. I'm trying to use my legs more. I want to make sure that I'm 100 percent so that when I go back up (to the Nationals) so that I don't play two games and then need to take a rest. That won't be fair to the team. I want to go up there and be game on."

Zimmerman said he enjoyed coming to Hagerstown to play with the Suns. First, it was a rewarding experience meeting with the Suns' fans. "We don't have the fan base that the (Baltimore) Orioles have because we haven't been around as long," Zimmerman said. "The fans get a chance to see what we do in a low-key atmosphere. We have been great and we owe it to them."

Zimmerman said he will meet with the Nationals to plan the next step of his rehabilitation. The Suns were happy to see him Sunday, but had a specific greeting for him before they played against Greensboro, which trails Hagerstown by 2 1/2 games in the South Atlantic League standings.

"They greeted me and told me they hoped I was there to help them win because today is a big game," Zimmerman said.

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