- The Washington Times - Friday, September 2, 2005

ATLANTA — He has been compared to Brooks Robinson, Mike Schmidt and Scott Rolen. Now third baseman Ryan Zimmerman has a chance to show everybody what the hype is all about.

Zimmerman, whom the Washington Nationals selected with the No. 4 pick in June’s draft, was recalled from Class AA Harrisburg yesterday, completing his meteoric rise to the big leagues. The University of Virginia product said he hears the comparisons between himself and some of the game’s greatest third basemen.

“But you take it in and it goes right out,” Zimmerman said before last night’s game against Atlanta. “If you put that much pressure on yourself, you’re not going to be able to perform as well as you’d like. It’s an honor to even have your name in the same sentence as those guys, but you’ve got to put it behind you and just go out and play your game and remember what got you here.”

Zimmerman wasn’t in the lineup against Braves starter John Smoltz, a former Cy Young Award winner, but made his debut as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning and took a called third strike from Jim Brower.

“I haven’t intentionally thought about starting him off slowly. I’m just not going to bring him in here and start him against John Smoltz,” manager Frank Robinson said.

Robinson said the 20-year-old probably will start at third base sometime this weekend. Zimmerman, who grew up in Virginia Beach, said he will have a large entourage of family and friends at RFK Stadium this weekend when the Nationals meet Philadelphia.

Zimmerman was impressive at Harrisburg, hitting .326 with nine home runs, 20 doubles and 32 RBI in 63 games. He said his biggest looming hurdle is the mental aspect of the game. He conceded being initially intimidated by Class AA pitching.

“A bunch of the guys in Double-A said Triple-A isn’t that much different,” Zimmerman said. “The pitchers [in Class AAA] are just a little more polished, and they can command a couple more of their pitches, not just fastball, curveball.”

Deivi arrives

Deivi Cruz, the Nationals’ new shortstop, joined the club almost two days after he was acquired from San Francisco. The Nationals traded minor league reliever Ben Cox to the Giants for Cruz, who was in last night’s starting lineup.

Cruz was supposed to arrive in Atlanta on Wednesday around 6 p.m., in time to start the second game of a doubleheader before he encountered delays.

“I had to go and get my stuff from the stadium like my spikes, my glove and my bats,” said Cruz, who is hitting .268 this season. “I took the second flight and it was delayed, and I got here at 8:30.”

The Nationals are counting on Cruz to provide a greater spark than Cristian Guzman, who is batting .196. Guzman probably will be used sparingly the rest of the year, mostly as a late-game defensive replacement.

Extra bases

The Nationals made three moves late last night to bolster their anemic hitting, calling up infielders Rick Short and Brandon Watson from Class AAA New Orleans and purchasing outfielder Kenny Kelly from New Orleans. Because of the promotion, Short will finish as the Pacific Coast League’s all-time single-season batting champion with a .386 average, eclipsing the mark of .379 in 1983 by Phoenix’s Chris Smith. …

The Nationals are still undecided on who will start Sunday against Philadelphia. Esteban Loaiza is the most likely candidate because he previously pitched on three days’ rest against New York on Aug. 21.

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