The throwing mechanics of third baseman Ryan Zimmerman have been one of the Nationals’ most oft-discussed and debated topics this season.
Start with the multiple cortisone shots that got him through the 2012 season, toss in the offseason surgery he had to cleanup his right shoulder and the slow throwing program the team put him on starting in January. Then add in the many throwing errors that plagued his April.
Through it all, there have been questions about Zimmerman’s throwing. About when his strength would fully return — most involved said it would take until at least June — and how it would help improve his accuracy to have a more natural motion than the herky-jerky 2012 version.
Zimmerman’s throws have improved throughout the season. His errors have come far less frequently and he’s said he still sees small progress in his growing strength on a near-daily basis as he continues to return from the surgery.
But questions remain.
The Nationals are now into the second week of August and manager Davey Johnson said Tuesday that he did not expect it to take as long as it has for Zimmerman to show significant improvement.
“I knew it was going to take until June, but obviously it’s taken longer,” Johnson said. “I don’t know if it’s physical or mental. Because I see him throw pretty good and in the game he’ll want to get a lot of air under it. If that doesn’t get better, then obviously (third base) is not a good spot for him to be in. But at one time, he had a cannon, and we’re all waiting for him to come back and get over it.
“I still think it’s more mental. Not just trusting it and cutting loose. I see him getting his work in, and he throws it pretty good. And then you see him having to play real shallow, almost cheat in. It’s not all together there yet, is what I’m saying.”
When the Nationals signed Zimmerman to his $100 million extension before the 2012 season, it was with the idea in mind that, eventually, as he aged, Zimmerman would probably find his way to first base. But the throwing complications have added a wrinkle to that plan.
As he spoke about his evaluation that Zimmerman’s arm has not returned to full strength as quickly as he’d expected, Johnson was asked if it was possible that this may just be the way the third baseman throws now.
He paused for a few moments before he gave his answer.
“I don’t know,” he said. “He works hard at it. I think when you have that problem, if you start thinking it through mentally, it’s like, ‘Where’s my arm supposed to go?’ Well, it just goes there naturally and you just fire it. I think he’ll get it. But it’s been longer than I thought.”