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State of the Nats: Zim’s return near

Jun 2, 2014, 12:04 PM EDT

Photo by USA Today

Top storylines:

Zimmerman set to return – Ryan Zimmerman will play nine innings in left field with Single-A Potomac Monday night as he continues his recovery from a fractured right thumb. If all goes well, he should be ready to go for Tuesday’s Nats game in Washington when the Phillies come to town.

Having Zimmerman back will certainly be a boost for a Nationals lineup that scored the third-least amount of runs in the month of May. It will also give folks an extra reason to tune in to Nats games this week. Zimmerman is expected to play in left field, a brand new position for the former Gold Glove-winning third baseman. Will he look out of place, or will the transition be seamless?

How Zimmerman fares in left field could have a lot of interesting effects on the Nationals’ future. For one, Bryce Harper will return at some point this season. When he does it could force the Nationals to make a tough decision as to whether they want to keep Denard Span or Danny Espinosa in the everyday lineup. Zimmerman could show promise and give the Nats another option for his future position, or it could not work out and put them back to square one. Wherever he settles will help determine the immediate futures of several of his teammates.

Gio to make rehab start – Gio Gonzalez threw a simulated game of about 50 pitches on Sunday and is now on track to make a minor league rehab appearance on Friday. That will then set him up for a return somewhere around June 11. If Gonzalez can return and pitch like he did in his first two years in Washington, he will certainly make a big difference.

From 2012 through 2013, Gonzalez held a 3.12 ERA for the Nationals across 395 innings. He was their horse and a big reason they posted winning records in both years. This season, however, he just wasn’t the same guy through nine starts. Gio currently sits with a 4.62 ERA on the year.

The Nationals’ rotation has a chance to be better than it was last year with the emergence of Doug Fister and the continued improvement of Tanner Roark. That premise, however, is highly dependent on Gonzalez rounding back into form.

Now healthy, will they heat up? – Once the Nationals get Zimmerman back, that will give them all but one member of their Opening Day lineup (Harper). They have shown signs over the last week of getting their offense together, but may have taken a step back in Sunday’s shutout loss to the Texas Rangers. Will the Nats start scoring runs? Now is certainly the time. We could find out a lot about this team this week with just about everyone back. It is becoming harder and harder to use their injuries as an excuse. If they continue to struggle through the month of June, it may be time to consider a trade.

MLB Draft starts Thursday – The 2014 MLB Draft is this week with the first and second rounds taking place on Thursday night. Rounds 3 through 10 will then go down Friday, with the final 30 rounds taking place on Sunday. The Nationals pick 18th overall in the first round and 57th in the second round. We’ll have some preview stuff leading up to Thursday and plenty of coverage of who the Nationals pick. The Nats have been very successful in scouting talent in recent years and this draft could behold some future stars for Washington.

NL East Standings


Offensive game of the week: Anthony Rendon 5/31 vs. Rangers – 4-for-5, HR, 3 R, RBI

Pitching game of the week: Stephen Strasburg 5/30 vs. Rangers – 6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 0 ER, BB, 9 SO, 88 pitches, 60 strikes.

Quote of the week:

Adam LaRoche on Yu Darvish’s 59 mile per hour curveball for strike three:

It was interesting. I thought he’d lost it. I thought it was going off the backstop when he released it. I just thought it slipped. And then it starts dropping in and I froze. I was impressed with that one.

Tweet of the week:
Denard Span lives to review movies on Twitter:

Road ahead

TUE – 7:05 p.m. vs. Philadelphia Phillies (Zimmermann)
WED – 7:05 p.m. vs. Philadelphia Phillies (Treinen)
THU – 4:05 p.m. vs. Philadelphia Phillies (Strasburg)
FRI – 10:10 p.m. at San Diego Padres (Fister)
SAT – 10:10 p.m. at San Diego Padres  (Roark)
SUN – 4:10 p.m. at San Diego Padres  (Zimmermann)

  1. Eugene in Oregon - Jun 2, 2014 at 12:56 PM

    “Will he look out of place, or will the transition be seamless?”
    How about ‘somewhere between those two extremes’?

    • Hiram Hover - Jun 2, 2014 at 1:31 PM

      Or even all of the above.

      Even if he plays LF well, he will still look out of place to a fanbase that has seen him as the team’s starting 3B for almost a decade.

  2. Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 2, 2014 at 1:26 PM

    All I know is that the Nats have a chance to go on a winning streak against the weakest 6 game stretch they’ve had all year.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Jun 2, 2014 at 1:38 PM

      Knock on wood, please.

    • chaz11963 - Jun 2, 2014 at 1:43 PM

      Right, then they have 14 games against the Giants, Cards, Braves, and Brewers.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 2, 2014 at 1:53 PM

        Yep, the Giants are a buzz saw right now against all comers. The pitching has been alright and something they haven’t had in years is a quick strike offense. Maybe the Nats won’t have to face Tim Hudson.

        Nats seem to face the other teams aces too often.

      • masterfishkeeper - Jun 2, 2014 at 2:03 PM

        It does seem that way, doesn’t it? It certainly seemed to be the case last year, especially when compared to the Braves.

        It would be great if someone could examine the data on that and see how much variation there is.

        At least we are missing Hamels, although I think I’d rather see him than Burnett.

    • jd - Jun 2, 2014 at 2:29 PM

      You and I look at things differently. Since we can’t win more than one game at a time I rarely project the schedule. As you have seen you can lose to struggling teams like Pittsburgh and San Diego and you can beat excellent teams like the Dodgers.

      One game a time.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 2, 2014 at 2:36 PM

        jd, chill out. I’m not predicting anything just saying “chance’ and a good time to beat up on some weak teams. This is where the Nats were so good last year dominating the weaker teams. It’s been a rough stretch and facing lots of aces. When people were predicting 3-1 against Pittsburgh that got 1-3.

        It’s one game at a time.

  3. Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 2, 2014 at 2:39 PM

    MLB has Strasburg and Burnett listed as probable pitchers on Wednesday.

    • therealjohnc - Jun 2, 2014 at 5:37 PM

      That’s probably correct. The three Phillies pitchers should be the rookie, then Burnett and Kendrick. For the Nats today’s off day gives them a chance to skip Treinen for now – and the ability to skip him is why he was sent to the bullpen. He pitched two innings on Friday. It’s a choice for the Nationals, who after today have 13 games in 13 days. Five starters will be needed, but the next three guys to go will get 3 starts in this stretch before another off day (June 16) lets the team reshuffle – and one of them is going to be Jordan Zimmermann. They also have to balance keeping Treinen at least a little bit stretched out – he’s only gone beyond 72 pitches once at the big league level. If I had to guess, I’d go with:

      6/3: Phillies (Zimmermann)
      6/4: Phillies (Strasburg)
      6/5: Phillies (Fister)
      6/6: @ Padres (Roark)
      6/7: @ Padres (Treinen)
      6/8: @ Padres (Zimmermann)
      6/9: @ Giants (Strasburg)
      6/10: @ Giants (Fister)
      6/11: @ Giants (Roark)
      6/12: @ Giants (Gonzalez/Treinen)
      6/13: @ Cardinals (Zimmermann)
      6/14: @ Cardinals (Strasburg)
      6/15: @ Cardinals (Fister)

      All other things being equal (#knockonwood; #notajinx), after that it’s just the five man rotation, next man up to the All Star Break.

      • therealjohnc - Jun 2, 2014 at 5:39 PM

        If Gio takes a longer time to get ready, this also gives Treinen a start against the Astros on the 17th instead of against the Braves, with Strasburg, Fister and Roark going against the Braves in DC on June 21-23.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 2, 2014 at 5:49 PM

        John, I think your rotation makes sense unless they put Gio back into the rotation on a different day than 6/12.

  4. chaz11963 - Jun 2, 2014 at 3:25 PM

    If Gio pitches fine on Friday, he could be on track to pitch in San Fran next Thursday instead of Treinen.

  5. natsguy - Jun 2, 2014 at 4:49 PM

    In order to get to 90 wins and be in contention for NL East, Nats need a record of 63 and 42. Is that possible or a pipedream? That would be a slightly over .600 record for the rest of the year.

  6. natsguy - Jun 2, 2014 at 5:12 PM

    Make that 63 and 44.

  7. natsguy - Jun 2, 2014 at 5:14 PM

    .588 winning percentage.

    • erocks33 - Jun 2, 2014 at 6:03 PM

      I look at it like this:

      In April (ok, include one March game), the Nats went 16-12 (+4)
      In May, they went 11-15 (-4)

      Do you think the rest of this season, they will be more like the first month team, or the second? If the first, then if they win +4 games each month (June, July, Aug, Sept), that puts them 16 games over .500, with an 89-73 record. And this season, 89 just might get you an NL East Division crown.

  8. natsguy - Jun 2, 2014 at 6:09 PM

    The biggest question is what’ll take to win. If its 92 wins I don’t think so. If its 88 or 89 maybe.

  9. Eric - Jun 2, 2014 at 10:11 PM

    The thing about projections is they can change dramatically rather quickly. Let’s say the Nats go on a 14-6 run starting tomorrow. Suddenly a .586 (51-36) pace gets them to 92 wins instead of .588 getting them to 90.

    A stretch of 28-12, starting tomorrow, puts us at 55 – 46, which means we’d need to go 37 – 24 (.576, a 93-win pace) to hit 92 wins.

    In other words, one or two hot streak leads to a very different projection. And, I think we have it in us.

    • Eric - Jun 2, 2014 at 10:13 PM

      Obviously, that goes both ways, but for some reason, barring additional injuries to major players, I think we’ve already seen bottom this season. At least, I hope so…heh.





As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at Click here for past audio clips.

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