- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 9, 2005

Ryan Zimmerman has no plans to take a break before embarking on his professional baseball career.

Zimmerman, the University of Virginia third baseman whom the Washington Nationals selected with the fourth pick overall in Tuesday’s amateur draft, will report to Class AA Harrisburg early next week.

“I’ll probably go to [my brother’s high school graduation Saturday] and then head out up to Pennsylvania and get back at it,” Zimmerman said.

The 20-year-old from Virginia Beach was introduced to Nationals fans before the fifth inning of last night’s game against the Oakland Athletics at RFK Stadium. He said he was surprised the Nationals are starting him at Class AA instead of at one of their Class A affiliates, the Potomac Nationals, the Savannah Sand Gnats or the Vermont Expos of the short-season New York-Penn League.

“It’s going to be tough, but I’ve always been one to accept challenges,” said Zimmerman, who got to tour RFK yesterday. “I like challenges. It’s not going to be easy getting up [to the major leagues] either, [but] I feel like I can handle it. I might struggle a little bit at times, but you struggle a lot in baseball.”

Said Nationals manager Frank Robinson: “He’s coming to us from a college program, and he’ll be all right. The only thing I worry about is starting kids too low. I think Class A is too low. If we feel like [Class AA] is a little too much for him to handle, you can always demote him.”

The Nationals are projecting Zimmerman, who hit .393 with six home runs and 59 RBI this season for the Cavaliers, as a replacement for Vinny Castilla at third base in as little as two years.

Zimmerman came to terms on a contract Tuesday night that included a $2.975 million signing bonus.

“He’s going to pay more taxes on that contract than I got for a bonus,” Robinson said. “Mine was $3,500.”

The Nationals drafted 32 players yesterday after selecting 16 Tuesday. Twenty-four of the players are pitchers, including six left-handers. Most of the college players will start with Vermont, while most of the high school players will be assigned to the rookie-level Gulf Coast League.

Nitkowski demoted

The Nationals outrighted ineffective left-handed reliever C.J. Nitkowski to Class AAA New Orleans and will purchase infielder Rick Short today from New Orleans.

Short, 32, was hitting .341 with 16 doubles, five home runs, and 30 RBI in 51 games for the Zephyrs. In 12 seasons, Short has never played in the major leagues despite entering this season as a .312 career minor league hitter.

Nitkowski, 32, was signed May 26. In seven games, he posted an 8.10 ERA and retired only three of nine left-handed batters he faced.

As of last night, Nitkowski had not decided whether to report to the Zephyrs.

“I’ll talk to my agent and see what options are available and see what happens,” Nitkowski said. “I’m sure I’ll clear waivers, but after that we’ll figure it out.”

Carroll sits

Jamey Carroll, the Nationals’ sure-handed utility infielder, did not play last night after injuring his left ankle Tuesday night against the A’s.

Carroll, who is starting at second because Jose Vidro is out until at least the All-Star break, doesn’t believe the injury is a big deal. Veteran Carlos Baerga filled in last night and delivered a run-scoring double in the fourth inning that tied the game 2-2.

With Carroll out, Robinson moved rookie outfielder Ryan Church to Carroll’s second spot in the batting order and had Baerga hit sixth.

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