Washington Nationals Should Not Rush Ryan Zimmerman Back into Action

Michael NatelliCorrespondent IApril 6, 2014

Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (11) pauses in the dugout during a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park Saturday, April 5, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Alex Brandon

Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman came out of Saturday's game against the Braves because of shoulder soreness and was subsequently held out of the starting lineup on Sunday in favor of Anthony Rendon. According to Bill Ladson of MLB.com, Zimmerman underwent an MRI on his shoulder on Saturday, and Washington skipper Matt Williams told reporters on Sunday that it showed inflammation but no structural damage. Zimmerman will be reevaluated on Tuesday. 

Matt Williams said the MRI on Ryan Zimmerman's right shoulder showed inflammation but no structural damage. He'll be reevaluated Tuesday.

Washington Nationals (@Nationals) April 6, 2014

Zimmerman entered the game on Sunday in the eighth inning as a pinch hitter, indicating that his injury isn't anything too dire, but the Nationals should still be cautious with their longtime third baseman. 

Rendon, a third baseman by trade, has gotten off to an even hotter start than Zimmerman, hitting .391 through his first six games. Allowing Rendon to get some playing time away from second base would open up the door for Danny Espinosa to get some regular at-bats, and while Espinosa's .182 batting average doesn't look impressive at face value, his approach at the plate has looked much better this year.

Resting Zimmerman would effectively give Espinosa a chance to see more regular at-bats and give the Nationals a sense of what they really have in the 27-year-old. 

Zimmerman has dealt with shoulder troubles every year since 2010 and also missed two months of the 2008 season. There's been speculation for years that Zimmerman's long-term home in Washington will be at first base, but with Adam LaRoche off to a hot start this year, those plans will have to be put on hold for now. 

If Rendon can improve on the minus-2.4 UZR he posted in 98 innings at the hot corner last season, maybe the short-term solution for Zimmerman would be to move him to second base. Even though Espinosa has turned things around, Zimmerman is signed for much longer and for a much higher salary.

There have never been any questions about his glove, so moving him to a position that would require shorter throws to first base may take some stress off that shoulder and allow him to stay off the shelf. But until Zimmerman is feeling healthy, the Nationals should not rush him back into action, as there are some quality options to fill in during his absence.