WASHINGTON -- The Ryan Zimmerman left-field experiment officially begins Saturday night.
No, not on the Major League level with the Nationals, but at Class A Potomac, where Washington's everyday third baseman is serving a rehab assignment. Zimmerman, on the 15-day disabled list since April 13 with a right thumb fracture, got four at-bats as the designated hitter with Potomac on Friday night. Now comes the next step: putting the glove on.
"The plan is he'll play five innings tonight of defense," Nationals manager Matt Williams said before Saturday's home game vs. the Rangers.
Not just defense, but at a position he's never played on the professional level.
"He's ready," Williams said. "He's done a lot of work out there. You still have to do it though. He's ready to go."
The shift to the outfield with Washington is not a lock, but the Nationals and Zimmerman are prepping for the day when there might not be another option. Shoulder injuries have hurt Zimmerman's ability to throw from the hot corner. He spent recent days in the outfield with Washington's coaching staff during pregame sessions.
"There is no way to get true, real line-drive balls. Even in batting practice, you can't really simulate it," Williams said. "That's the difference, balls coming off the bat differently, certainly with more authority."
As for how Zimmerman did with the bat in his hand, he was 0-for-3 with a sacrifice fly on Friday.
"He felt good. He wanted another [at-bat]," Williams said. "Four is good for one day. Tonight, he'll play five full innings regardless of where they're at in the lineup. I'm sure we'll have some call this evening saying, 'Can I have another at-bat in the sixth?'"
Ben Standig is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.