Results tagged ‘ Ryan Zimmerman ’

The key to Zimmerman’s power surge

By Tom Schad | Associate Reporter

When Ryan Zimmerman woke up on September 1, he had hit 15 home runs in 121 games this season.

When he woke up Saturday morning, he had hit nine home runs — in the first two weeks of the month.

Just how remarkable is this recent surge? In his past 11 games, Zimmerman has as many dingers as he had in June, July and August combined. He has already tied the club record for most homers in the month of September. Nine of his past 14 hits have left the park.

His explanation?

“I don’t know,” he said Friday night. “Just going with it. Come here and I do the same stuff I did all year. And that’s the way I’ve done it for years. Every now and then I get hot. Hopefully, I just try and kind of ride it as long as it will go and don’t try and think about it too much.”

Manager Davey Johnson, however, offered a more interesting explanation. In addition to Zimmerman’s improved performance in the field, the 70-year-old skipper attributed this recent performance to a change in batting practice.

About three weeks ago, Johnson noticed that Zimmerman was pulling the ball in BP. He was peppering hits to left field. Johnson likes to see hitters pull the ball and attack pitches on the inside part of the plate. He believes that this change in Zimmerman’s batting practice has spilled over to games.

And he might be right. Of Zimmerman’s nine home runs this month, seven have been to left or left-center field, one to straightaway center, and one to right.

“[This season] they’ve been getting him out early throwing him down and in, inside,” Johnson explained. “Now he’s hammering that ball. So I like it.”

Ian Desmond said the surge could be the result of mere inches in Zimmerman’s swing.

“I mean, this is the crazy thing about baseball,” Desmond said. “He’s been hitting low line drives that have been hard ground balls, low hard ground balls that if you’re one grain up turn into home runs. And now it’s happening.

“This game, you are what you are, and by the end of the day, we might look up and Zim might have 30 [homers] and 100 [RBI]. That is who he is.”

Span extends hitting streak to 20 games

NEW YORK — Nationals center fielder Denard Span extended his hitting streak to 20 games by hitting a leadoff home run against the Mets on Monday night.

With right-hander Carlos Torres on the mound for New York, Span led off in the first inning and worked the count to 2-2, when he hit the ball over the right-field wall for his fourth home run of the season. It was also the first leadoff home run for the Nationals this season.

During the streak, Span is 32-for-79 [.405] with two home runs and seven RBIs. Span has a long way to go before he catches up to the Nats’ record set by third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who had a 30-game hitting streak that went from April 8th to May 12th, 2009.

Small mistake looms large in playoff push

By Tom Schad | Associate Reporter

The Nationals’ road to the playoffs is actually more like a tightrope. They have little room for error as they try to catch Arizona and Cincinnati in the Wild Card race, and every mistake over the next month will be magnified.

Such was the case on Friday, when the Mets scored the deciding run in a 3-2 ball game on a questionable throw and missed scoop.

In the top of the eighth inning with two outs and Daniel Murphy on second base, Andrew Brown hit a chopper to Ryan Zimmerman at third. Zimmerman, who has a team-high 19 errors this season, tried to make a difficult play and skipped a throw to first. First baseman Adam LaRoche couldn’t field the ball cleanly and Murphy ran around to score.

Given the situation, it probably would have been wise for Zimmerman to hold the ball. Though if LaRoche had been able to scoop the ball on an awkward hop, Murphy wouldn’t have scored and it probably wouldn’t have been a big issue.

“I’ll throw that every time,” Zimmerman said. “I got the ball clean and threw it. When I’m off-balance like that, I usually just bounce it. Rochie made a good play. I think the guy would’ve been safe. He came off the bag and unfortunately it took a funny hop and he couldn’t come up with it. But if he catches it clean, the guy’s out at home by a mile.”

Bench coach Randy Knorr, who took over for Davey Johnson in the fourth inning because the skipper was feeling light-headed, gave Murphy credit for rounding third base without hesitation. Shortstop Ian Desmond said that he trusts Zimmerman in that situation, regardless of his throwing woes this season.

“It’s easy to say, ‘Yeah, put it in your pocket,’” Desmond said. “But at the same time, that’s a big play if he makes that play. I’ll take my chances on Zim making that play every time.”

In a vacuum, Zimmerman’s decision to throw and LaRoche’s inability to field the ball were not major blunders. The game could have turned on a number of other plays. But given the situation — both the Reds and Diamondbacks also lost Friday, giving the Nationals a chance to gain ground — those small mistakes suddenly look much larger.


Nats need to make improvements

WASHINGTON  — Entering Tuesday action, the Nationals were 54-58, 13 ½ games behind the Braves in the National League East and seven games behind the Reds in the Wild Card race. While manager Davey Johnson continues to have a positive attitude about his team, it’s pretty clear why the Nationals may not play in the postseason this year.

They rank near the bottom in offense and defense. They have also had their share of injuries. The worst was Bryce Harper, who missed more than a month of action because of a left knee injury.

“All the little things add up and they can affect your performance,” Johnson said. “It’s my job to stay positive and hope, at some point, we get it all going.”

What improvements should the Nationals make to get better? They need a leadoff hitter. Center fielder Denard Span has hit first for most of the season, and he is hitting .251 with a .310 on-base percentage at the top spot.

Ryan Zimmerman is arguably having his worst year defensively, with a team-leading 17 errors. But that number doesn’t tell the whole story. He is still having throwing issues because of the surgery he had on his right shoulder. In fact in early June, Zimmerman said he expects the shoulder to be in rehab mode for the rest of the season, but it will not keep him out of the lineup.

Zimmerman had arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder last October. While there wasn’t any labrum or rotator cuff damage, Zimmerman needed to have his AC joint fixed, and the surgery revealed the injury to be more serious than anticipated.

It would not be surprising if the Nationals decided to move Zimmerman from third to first base in the future. That could possibly mean trading first baseman Adam LaRoche to make room for Zimmerman.

Asked if Zimmerman needed to play a different position, Johnson said, “With the work he is putting in, I thought it’d take until June. Obviously, it has taken longer. If you see him throw early [during batting practice], he throws deeper and throws the ball on the line.

“I don’t know if it’s physical or mental. I see him throw pretty good, and then in the game, he will want to get a lot of air under it. If that doesn’t get better, obviously, it’s not a good spot for him to be in. At one time, he had a cannon, and we are all waiting for him to come back. I think it’s more mental and not trusting it and cutting it lose. I see him working, and he throws the ball pretty good.”

The bench was one reason the Nationals won the division title last year.  This year, not one reserve is hitting above .250 or has provided the pop off the bench. Before the Trade Deadline, the Nationals made an attempt to acquire veteran players for the bench. They were able acquire Scott Hairston from the Cubs, but since he has been in Washington, Hairston has played only against left-handed pitching.

The Nationals may need to look for two starting pitchers. Right-hander Dan Haren said recently he most likely will not be coming back because he has not lived up to expectations. Left-hander Ross Detwiler has missed most of the season because of a back injury. It’s not known if he will be healthy for next year.

The Nationals have a lot of work to do after the season comes to an end.

Do the Nats need a team meeting?

By Tom Schad | Associate Reporter

When Ian Desmond struck out in the bottom of the ninth inning on Sunday, mercifully ending the most disappointing series of a disappointing Nationals season, the numbers pretty much said it all.

Over three games against the Dodgers, the Nationals scored five runs. They hit a lowly .223, a full 17 points below their season average (.240), which is already fourth-worst in the Major Leagues. And with runners in scoring position, they were even worse: 2-for-26 (0.77).

“There’s nobody to blame besides us, no coaches, no anything like that,” third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. “The bottom line is all of us, myself including, haven’t been producing like we should and that’s what happens.”

The Nationals were swept in a three-game series for the first time since mid-April. Still, Kurt Suzuki doesn’t think the series was as terrible as it seems.

“We could’ve easily won the first two games. We could’ve easily won the series,” he said. “Things didn’t go our way, and that’s what happens in baseball. You’ve just got to get back on the saddle. That’s a good team over there.”

To a man, the Nationals have maintained that the offense will eventually come around. It’s a long season. They’ll go on a run. It’s only a matter of time.

But after Sunday’s loss, you couldn’t help but wonder whether the Nationals should trade that patience for a heightened sense of urgency. One reporter asked Zimmerman, one of the team’s unquestioned leaders, whether he needed to call a team meeting.

“Pep talks don’t work for grownups,” he said. “The truth is you go out and you play the game the same way as you do every night. We go out there and we try and win every game, and this year obviously hasn’t worked out like we’ve wanted it to work out so far, but to have a meeting and tell people — I don’t know what we would tell them. You can’t tell them to play harder, you can’t tell them to try harder, and that’s really the only thing that those meetings are good for.

“Bottom line is we just need to go out and win games. Everyone can talk about whatever they want to talk about, but we got to go out and win.”

Rival Q&A: Braves Center Fielder B.J. Upton

After eight years with the Rays, outfielder B.J. Upton signed a five-year, $75 million deal with the Braves this past offseason. So far, Upton is off to a slow start, going 3-for-29 with just an RBI entering Friday’s action. However, his teammate, brother Justin Upton, is red hot, hitting .353 with a league-leading six home runs. caught up with B.J. on Friday to talk about the Braves, Justin and the Nationals. How good are the Braves this year?

B.J. Upton: We can be very good. We have all the right pieces. We have the pitching, we have the bullpen. We have the lineup to do it. We have the bench players to do it. We have to keep doing what we are doing. The biggest thing for us: we are playing well, but we haven’t clicked on all cylinders yet. How do you explain the fast start? The Braves lost only one game.

Upton: I don’t know. We are getting timely hits. Our pitching has been keeping us in ballgames. We are just hitting the ball when we need to right now. Obviously, we would like to do it a little bit more consistently, but it’s still early. We have a lot of season left. How good is it to see your brother, Justin, get off to a hot start?

Upton: It’s something that is pretty cool to watch. Obviously, what happened during the offseason and the rumors that were rumbling around, it could have affected him. [Those rumors] haven’t affected him. For the most part, he has been carrying us. He has been doing pretty well right now. How much has your presence helped him?

Upton: I don’t know. I can’t say he wouldn’t be doing this without me here. I’ve seen him do it in the past. … He is a strong-minded guy, he works hard and he strives for perfection. Obviously, you are not going to be perfect in this game. If you expect that out of yourself, you are going to get the results that you want. What do you think of the Nationals? How much of a factor will they be in the National League East race?

Upton: They are a great team. Obviously, they showed it last year. They didn’t lose anybody and they have some guys back healthy. Like I said, they are a great ballclub and we know they are going to be around all season. I know you are from Virginia. After you became a free agent, did you think about playing for the Nationals?

Upton: That was always a possibility. It didn’t work out that way. I’m an Atlanta Brave. I’m looking forward to playing baseball with these guys. Did you ever think about playing on the same big-league team as Ryan Zimmerman?

Upton: We would like to do it. But sometimes, things don’t work out. We are always going to support each other. Maybe not as much in the series when we play each other. But we are always going to support each other. I wish him the best. We’ve always been good friends. We get together during the offseason as much as we can. I know he comes to Florida every once in a while. We get out and have some dinner. I’m always supporting him and he is always supporting me. You spent most of your career with the Rays. Do you miss them?

Upton: Obviously, being with them for 10 years, there are some things that I miss, but it’s baseball. Obviously, there are some guys who stay with one franchise their entire careers. But I think to be at one place for 10 years is pretty good. I will always have a place in my heart for them and I’m always rooting for those guys because they gave me an opportunity to be where I am today. I wish them nothing but the best. What do you miss about the city of Tampa?

Upton: I still live there during the offseason. I can’t really say I miss it because I’m there all the time. When I’m not in Atlanta, I’ll be in Tampa. The people and the city of Tampa, it’s a great place to live. They are friendly people, it’s a great place to start a family. For me, I like to play golf. It’s a great place to play golf. It such a great place to be. The weather is beautiful all year round. I feel comfortable there. I lived there the last eight years. Obviously home is Virginia, but if there is a home away from home, Tampa is it. I plan on settling there.

Nats’ Zimmerman intrigued by Cano, Jay Z, Van Wagenen

Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was intrigued to learn that Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano hired Roc Nation, which was founded by rapper Jay-Z, and Creative Artists Agency to represent him during contract negotiations. Cano is a free agent after the 2013 season.

While he doesn’t know the specifics regarding the partnership between Roc Nation and CAA, Zimmerman believes Roc Nation could take CAA to another level.

“When you get a guy like [Jay-Z], who wants to get involved in baseball — he is obviously one of the icons of our generation for his music,” Zimmerman said. “I think he has become a very savvy and smart businessman. It will be interesting to see what happens and where it goes and how it goes. But it’s exciting to be part of something like that. I don’t know how involved I will be or anyone else will be. It’s definitely exciting and cool.”

According to published reports, agent Brodie Van Wagenen will be the lead man when it comes to contract negotiations. Van Wagenen was the person who negotiated Zimmerman’s six-year, $100 million extension in 2012. Zimmerman calls Van Wagenen “a member of the family.”

“I’ve known Brodie for almost 10 years now. Brodie has always taken care of me and my family, just like he said he would. It’s hard to find that sometimes,” Zimmerman said. “He does his job, he does what he supposed to do. He is very professional. We have known each other for so long. It’s a different relationship than most people have with their agents.”

Asked if Van Wagenen will negotiate a lucrative deal for Cano, Zimmerman said, “I think Cano will get the deal that Cano wants. It’s pretty easy to get the money and the contract for a player like that. At the end of the day, that’s what happens. If you are a good player, you are going to get a good contract. Obviously, Robbie is one of the best in the game.”

Cano is coming off one of the best seasons of his career, hitting .313 with 33 home runs and 94 RBIs for the Yankees last year.

Wind at Wrigley hurts Nats’ Zimmerman

The wind was blowing in and that didn’t help the Nationals during their 2-1 victory over the Cubs. Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, for example, likely missed out on two homers in the game.

In the first inning, with runners on first and second, Zimmerman hit a ball that appeared to be going over the center-field wall, but it was caught near the warning track.

In the sixth inning, Zimmerman led off and hit what looked like a solo homer over the left-field wall, but it was caught on the warning track by Alfonso Soriano.

“I had some good at-bats today. … But hopefully, I’ll get some wind-blown homers the other way — maybe,” Zimmerman said. “You can never look at things like that. The truth is they weren’t homers, but more importantly, we won.”

[Update] Nats, Zimmerman agree to contract extension

The Nationals and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman have agreed to terms on six-year $100 million extension with a full no-trade clause. There is also a club option for $18 million. A press conference is expected to be held later today at Space Coast Stadium.

Zimmerman is one of six players –Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Braun 2020, Matt Kemp are the others — signed through 2019.

The team had until the end of Saturday to get a deal done with Zimmerman, who hinted on Friday afternoon that he wanted a no-trade clause in his contract. Zimmerman has two years left on his current deal worth $26 million.

“It’s a relief. It’s a lot of stuff to work out. It’s a big commitment. Things like that don’t get done quickly,” Zimmerman said before having his press conference. “Both sides worked tirelessly to get this stuff done. Now, we don’t have to worry about it anymore.”

On Saturday night, general manager Mike Rizzo said there were no major stumbling blocks to complete a deal.

“We don’t have a deal done yet, but we have made significant progress,” Rizzo said Saturday. “We feel good about it and optimistic that we can reach an agreement, but there are some small details that we have to iron out through tonight and tomorrow.

“Hopefully, tomorrow, [by] the time we see [members of the media], we’ll have something more concrete to announce. But we feel good and optimistic that Zim is going to be a Washington National for a very, very long time.”

Zimmerman is considered the face of the franchise. He was selected in the first round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft and became the most popular player in franchise history. In six years, he has won two silver slugger awards, a gold glove and made one All-Star appearance.

“Zim has been our centerpiece since he came up to the big leagues. He was our top prospect,” reliever Tyler Clippard said. “And when I got here, he was the man. I think it’s important to an organization to show loyalty to a guy that has been loyal to them and has done so many things for the organization on and off the field. It’s just says a lot about what kind management we have and the direction that we are going.”

Said Shortstop Ian Desmond, “It’s just another indication that organization is moving in the right direction. … To see Zim happy at home and not have to work about that anymore, it’s going to be nice. It’s good that the deal got done. It’s kind of a good faith-type thing. I think it would have gotten ugly if the deal didn’t get done. I’m happy for him. We definitely need him.”

Zimmerman originally had a self-imposed deadline of 10:00 a.m. ET on Saturday. Zimmerman said he didn’t want to talk about his contract after that day, for he didn’t want to become a distraction to the team.

Around 1:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, Zimmerman told the media that his agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, had come up with a creative solution to bridge the gap between the two sides. Zimmerman then said he wanted the deal to be done by the end of Saturday.

“Both sides are working to try to get over the last … couple of hurdles,” Zimmerman said. “We are both trying to be creative. It will be either yes or no, today. We’ll have closure either way. It’s something to ensure me that I will be here because that’s the reason I’m signing the deal. That’s basically the only thing left.

“Like I said all along, we can concentrate on baseball and not have you guys [the media] worry about it anymore and — more importantly — my teammates and myself.”

Van Wagenen was seen talking to Rizzo at the Nationals’ Spring Training complex on Wednesday. The two sides also talked Thursday and Friday without coming close to a deal.

Zimmerman is coming off an injury-plagued 2011 season in which he hit .289 with 12 home runs and 49 RBIs across 101 games. He missed significant time because of an abdominal injury.

Van Wagenen and the Nationals have been in serious discussions about an extension for Zimmerman since the Winter Meetings last December.

“We have made significant progress on an extension for Ryan that would ensure he plays for the Nationals for a long time, which has always been Ryan’s goal,” Van Wagenen said in a statement. “We are working on a structure that will allow the team to continue to add talent and establish a winner which is another goal of Ryan’s.

“While there are still important aspects to work through, we bridged multiple important gaps on many major parts of a contract. Nothing is done until it is done, but both sides are optimistic that an agreement can be reached and Ryan can focus his energies on preparing with his teammates for the season.”

Nationals, Zimmerman still talking contract extension

The Nationals are still trying to reach an agreement with third baseman Ryan Zimmerman on a contract extension. Zimmerman had a self imposed deadline of 10:00 a.m. ET on Saturday to get a deal done.

However, the team now has until the end of the day to get a deal done with Zimmerman, who hinted once again that he wants a no-trade clause in his contract. Zimmerman has two years left on his current contract.

“We’ve gone back and we’ve given them one other creative solution to bridge this gap,” Zimmerman said. “Today is the day, Saturday. It’s either going to get done or it’s not going to get done. Both sides are working to try to get over the last … couple of hurdles. We are both trying to be creative. It will be either yes or no, today. We’ll have closure either way.

“It’s something to ensure me that I will be here because that’s the reason I’m signing the deal. That’s basically the only thing left.”

Zimmerman said he doesn’t want to talk about his contract after Saturday because he doesn’t want to become a distraction to the team.

“Like I said all along, we can concentrate on baseball and not have you guys [the media] worry about it anymore and — more importantly – my teammates and myself,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman’s agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, was seen talking to general manager Mike Rizzo at the Nationals’ Spring Training complex on Wednesday. The two sides also talked Thursday and Friday without coming close to a deal.

Zimmerman is coming off an injury-plagued 2011 season in which he hit .289 with 12 home runs and 49 RBIs across 101 games. He missed significant time because of an abdominal injury.

Van Wagenen and the Nationals have been in serious discussions about an extension for Zimmerman since the Winter Meetings last December.

“We are still working toward an agreement,” Rizzo said. “We don’t have an agreement at this time. We’ve come a long way and bridged a big gap from the beginning [of the negotiations] to where we are currently, but we are not there yet. This is a very complicated, lucrative contract that we are discussing. We are not quite at the finish line yet. I’m still hopeful that we could come to an agreement, but we are not there yet.”