Having successfully made it through two days of rest and then two days of limited throwing with a new sidearm motion, Ryan Zimmerman returned to the Nationals lineup Wednesday night, plugged back into his usual spot at third base and hoping he can make it through the season with no more disruptions.
"It's a constant work in progress," he said. "It's tough. But for now, we found something that I think has a chance to work without hurting. So that's a relief. Because I want to be out there and I want to help the team win. When I can't do that, it's frustrating."
Held out of Sunday's game with shoulder pain that proved costly on a Saturday night throwing error, Zimmerman rested on Monday and then began trying out the sidearm throwing motion early Tuesday afternoon. He gave it another shot Wednesday afternoon and felt good enough to return to the lineup.
The difference was noticeable, not only to Zimmerman but to others who watched the drill.
"A lot stronger," said first baseman Adam LaRoche, who was on the receiving end of the throws. "That was the first thing I noticed. He had a lot more life and zip back on the ball. It's like anything; it's going to take some practice. But for Day 2 of throwing from down there ... it looked natural and it's having a lot more life coming out of his hand."
Zimmerman has thrown sidearm previously in his career, and he has always thrown that way when he's forced to come charging in for slow rollers down the third base line. There is some adjustment, though, to altering his form on every throw he makes, regardless of the situation.
"It's not that big of a change," said manager Matt Williams, himself a former third baseman. "I think more is made of it than needs to be. Because on any given play, he does it. If he goes to his left, he's kind of there already. The question is, on the normal grounder that's just hit right at him, feeling that he can get a little bit lower so he doesn’t feel it as much."
There is no long-term plan set in stone for Zimmerman, who is dealing with a longstanding shoulder condition that isn't going to magically improve at this stage of his career. For now, he's taking this day-to-day, hoping this somewhat desperate measure allows him to continue playing at a productive level.
"[Doctors] say I've played baseball too long," he said with a smile. "I don't think there's any cure for that. ... It feels good. And I think that's one of the reasons why we decided to go ahead and try it. It's not as stressful as the arm angle that's higher. So we figured we'd give this a try."