LOS ANGELES -- Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman made it known Saturday that he would love to play with his childhood friend, Rays center fielder B.J. Upton. There has been speculation for weeks that the Nationals have been interested in the right-handed-hitting Upton.
Zimmerman has not talked to Upton this season about the possibility of playing close to home, which is in Virginia. During the offseason, however, Upton sometimes told Zimmerman how lucky he is to play close to home.
"It would be different and I think it would be fun, but when it comes down to it, the most important thing is to get guys who can help us win," Zimmerman said. "B.J. is a very talented player. I think a lot of people still think he is going to improve a lot. He has all the tools. He is one of those guys who can run, throw and hit for power. He is a very gifted athlete."
If Upton were to be traded to the Nationals, Zimmerman believes Upton, 26, could help the team in a lot of ways. Zimmerman acknowledged, however, that Upton needed to improve his batting average. Entering Saturday's action, Upton was hitting .232 with 15 home runs and 52 RBIs. His best season was in 2007, when he hit .300 with 24 home runs and 82 RBIs.
"You are talking about a guy who steals over 50 bases a year," Zimmerman said. "His batting average has been kind of up and down, but it's hard to hit for a high average. That will come with time. He has the speed to put pressure on the other team just by getting on base."
When they played together as kids in Virginia, Zimmerman said that Upton was one of the best players on the team. Upton would later be taken as the second overall pick in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft.
Zimmerman also believes Upton is misunderstood as a person.
"He is a quiet guy and I think a lot of people take that the wrong way, but he works hard, he wants to be the best at what he does," Zimmerman said. "He was young for a while there. We all do things when we are young that we learn from. As he continues to mature, as well all do, he is going to become a better player."