Tagged in: Washington Nationals

Washington Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman ‘nowhere close’ to retirement after 2020 opt-out

Back with the Washington Nationals after sitting out last campaign because of COVID-19 concerns, Ryan Zimmerman said Thursday the time away made him realize he is nowhere close to being ready to retire at age 36.

“I missed the game a lot,” Zimmerman said during a video call. “I missed what it takes to prepare every day. As you get older, there’s more and more you have to do to get ready, but I missed all of that, as well.”

The two-time NL All-Star was one of the first players to opt out in 2020. The father of a newborn son, and the son of a mother with multiple sclerosis, Zimmerman decided the safest course of action would be to not play amid a pandemic. There were other factors he contemplated, including whether he would need to change his pregame and postgame routines.

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“Was it really worth it for me to risk injury to myself, the health of my family, at the time, for a season that was 60 games? Who knows if people really thought it was going to make it through? If people thought it was going to count as a real season?” Zimmerman stated.

“I don’t really second-guess or wish I would’ve played.”

Arriving in Florida this time around — he brought his wife and three children — raised new questions.

“You just didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if I was going to be the weird guy wearing a mask in the grocery store,” Zimmerman said. “… I think a lot more people are more aware now — obviously of themselves, but I think of other people, as well.

Hopefully if anything positive can come out of this, maybe we’ll start caring about other people more, which would be nice. But as far as being down here now for two weeks, I feel a lot more confident than I did flying down here.”

Zimmerman, the first amateur draft pick in Nationals history in 2005, is expected to be the backup to free-agent addition Josh Bell at first base.

“He’s faced all the guys I’m going to face this year,” Bell said. “He knows all the umpires, he knows all the zones, he knows the division more than anyone else on this squad.”

Washington’s first exhibition match is Sunday versus St. Louis, and Zimmerman hopes to appear in more Grapefruit League games, but fewer innings. “He’s the face of this organization — and he will be for a long time. He really will be,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “To have him back here, have him in that clubhouse, talking to the young players, it’s awesome.”

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Two-time All-Star pitcher Jordan Zimmermann signs minor league deal with Milwaukee Brewers

The Milwaukee Brewers have signed former All-Star pitcher Jordan Zimmermann to a minor league contract that incorporates an invitation to major league camp, the team informed Tuesday.

Zimmermann, who turns 35 on May 23, pitched in just three matches for the Detroit Tigers last season due to a forearm injury after going 1-13 with a 6.91 ERA in 2019. He was a two-time All-Star with the Washington Nationals, who selected him from Division III school Wisconsin-Stevens Point in the second round of the 2007 draft.

He described his injury as a “forearm flexor thing” and returned to make three September appearances last year, going 0-0 with a 7.94 ERA. Zimmermann says he now is as healthy as he’s been in a few years. “If I didn’t feel good or I didn’t feel healthy, I was probably thinking about retiring,” Zimmermann said.

“But I started working out, started running, started throwing and doing everything I normally do. The body feels good and the mind is telling me to keep going. I’m going to definitely give it another year, and we’ll see what happens after this year.”

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Zimmermann went 70-50 with a 3.32 ERA with the Nationals from 2009 to 2015, and he concluded seventh in the Cy Young Award voting in 2013 and fifth in 2014 while making the NL All-Star team both of those seasons.

He threw the first no-hitter in Nationals history when Washington beat the Miami Marlins 1-0 in the 2014 regular-season finale.

Zimmermann wasn’t nearly as effective after moving to the American League, posting a 25-41 record with a 5.63 ERA for Detroit over the past five seasons.

“If I didn’t have anything left, I probably would have retired and gone out on my own terms,” Zimmermann said. “But my body and my mind tell me, ‘You still have more left.’ Obviously, I want to go out there and stay healthy. I know I can get guys out. It’s definitely going to be nice getting back in the NL because I feel a lot more comfortable there than where I was.”

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Washington Nationals re-signing Josh Harrison to one-year contract

The Washington Nationals have agreed to terms with utility player Josh Harrison on a one-year, $1 million contract, the team informed Thursday.

Harrison spent the 2020 campaign with the Nationals after signing with them in July, less than a week after he was released by the Philadelphia Phillies. The 33-year-old hit .278 with two doubles, three home runs, 14 RBIs, six walks and 11 runs scored for Washington. He hit .309 as a starter.

Harrison can make an additional $250,000 in performance bonuses as part of the deal: $50,000 for 200 plate appearances and additional increments of $50,000 up to 400. He made 91 plate appearances in 33 games during the 60-game 2020 season.

Harrison, a right-handed hitter, is a two-time All-Star who has started games at second base, third base, shortstop, designated hitter and both corner outfield spots during his 10 years in the majors.

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He played eight seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates before joining the Detroit Tigers in 2019 and has compiled a career .273 batting average with 56 homers, 291 RBIs and 384 runs.

He was a National League All-Star in 2014 and 2017 for Pittsburgh. But Harrison hit .175 with one homer in 36 games for the Tigers last year before getting released in August 2019.

He had signed a minor league contract with the Phillies in November before they let him go in July.

“You never know where you’re going to end up in this game,” Harrison said last month. “I’m blessed. I was fortunate enough to find a situation like this when it didn’t work out with Philly. I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better place, a better group of guys.”

Harrison is the first free-agent question addressed by the Nationals. Players entering free agency this offseason include infielders Ryan Zimmerman and Asdrúbal Cabrera, outfielder Michael A. Taylor, catcher Kurt Suzuki and pitchers Sean Doolittle and Roenis Elías.

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Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman, Joe Ross opt out of 2020 season

Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and pitcher Joe Ross are opting out of the 2020 campaign delayed by the coronavirus pandemic “for the personal health and safety of themselves and their loved ones,” the team informed Monday.

Zimmerman, 35, was the Nationals’ first draft pick when the franchise moved out of Montreal and has played for the team since making his debut on Sept. 1, 2005.

“After a great deal of thought and given my family circumstances — three young children including a newborn, and a mother at high risk — I have decided not to participate in the 2020 season,” Zimmerman said in a statement.

Zimmerman has been writing a diary for The Associated Press since the coronavirus shut down sports this spring. In the 10th installment last week, he expressed concerns about playing in 2020. “I have a 3-week-old baby,” Zimmerman wrote.

“My mother has multiple sclerosis and is super high-risk; if I end up playing, I can pretty much throw out the idea of seeing her until weeks after the season is over. There’s a lot of factors that I and others have to consider. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer; it’s everybody’s individual choice.”

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Zimmerman batted .257 with six home runs and 27 RBIs in 171 at-bats last season and had a dramatic home run in Game 1 of the World Series.

“Everyone knows how much it means to me to be a part of a team, and I will miss that camaraderie dearly this year,” he said in Monday’s statement. “Of course I would love to pursue back-to-back titles. I cannot speak for anyone else, but given the unusual nature of the season, this is the best decision for me and my family, and I truly appreciate the organization’s understanding and support.”

He had been booked to play on a one-year, $2 million contract this season after the Nationals declined to exercise an $18 million club option.

“To be clear, I am not retiring at this time,” he said in the statement. “I have not decided on my future in baseball past 2020. But this year I’ll be staying safe at home and pulling as hard as anyone for our guys to defend their championship.”

Ross, 27, has five seasons of major league experience and underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in 2017. He appeared in 27 matches last season, going 4-4 with a 5.48 ERA, and was in line to compete to be the Nationals’ fifth starter.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo issued a statement of support Monday.

“Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross have decided not to participate in the 2020 season for the personal health and safety of themselves and their loved ones. We are 100 percent supportive of their decision to not play this year.

We will miss their presence in the clubhouse and their contributions on the field.” Zimmerman and Ross became the second and third players known to opt out of the 2020 season on Monday, following Diamondbacks pitcher Mike Leake.

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Ryan Zimmerman agrees to 1 year deal with Nationals

The Washington Nationals have retained their longest-tenured player after agreeing to a one-year deal with Ryan Zimmerman on Friday, pending a physical, according to the Washington Post’s Barry Svrluga. 

The contract, which reportedly includes a $2 million base salary, could be worth as much as $5 million through various performance bonuses. 

The first baseman has spent his entire professional career with the Washington Nationals, including 15 years at the major league level. In that time, he earned two All-Star selections and one Gold Glove award while totaling 270 home runs and a .279 batting average.

His career with the team culminated last campaign with a World Series title, with Zimmerman hitting an important home run in Game 1 against Gerrit Cole and the Houston Astros.

Though the Nationals declined his 2020 option worth $18 million, they thought highly enough of him to re-sign him on a new deal.

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Injuries have kept the 35-year-old from being a full-time contributor in recent seasons; he only played 137 matches over the past two years combined. Zimmerman ended the 2019 campaign with a .257 batting average and six home runs in 52 games.

However, he’s only two years removed from an impressive 2017 season in which he ended with a .303 average, 36 home runs and 108 RBI while gaining MVP votes.

Though it was the only season since 2013 that he played more than 120 games, it showed he can still be an impact player when he stays on the field.

The Nationals are likely banking on this upside while keeping as much of the clubhouse intact as possible after securing the first World Series championship in franchise history. At the least, Zimmerman can provide help off the bench for a deep lineup next season.

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Stephen Strasburg opts out of deal with Nationals

As expected, Washington Nationals right-hander and reigning World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg has opted out of his contract, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.

The Nationals have not yet established the news. Strasburg is walking away from four years and $100 million. Saturday was the deadline to opt out.

Strasburg, 31, threw a National League leading 209 innings during the regular season, and ended with 3.32 ERA and 251 strikeouts. He then threw another 36 1/3 innings with a 1.98 ERA during Washington’s postseason run, including 8 1/3 innings of two-run ball with the season on the line in World Series Game 6.

The Nationals signed Strasburg to a seven-year extension worth $175 million in May 2016.

The contract included heavy deferrals, as big Nationals contracts often do. Because a dollar today is worth more than a dollar five years from now, the present day value of those four years is much less than $100 million. Strasburg would come out ahead financially simply by re-signing a new four-year, $100 million deal with no deferrals. 

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The Nationals will almost certainly try to re-sign Strasburg, who they selected with the No. 1 overall pick back in 2009. He is the second best starting pitcher on the free agent market behind Gerrit Cole and could command upwards of six years and $150 million this winter, even at age 31 and with injuries throughout his career. That might even be selling him short.

Washington will also try to re-sign third baseman Anthony Rendon this winter. Should they lose Strasburg to free agency — I imagine his hometown Padres will make a big push to sign him — the Nationals would still have Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin to front to the rotation going forward. 

The Nationals will undoubtedly make Strasburg the qualifying offer prior to Monday’s deadline, ensuring they receive draft pick compensation if he signs elsewhere.

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Nationals defeat Astros to win Franchise’s first World Series

Howie Kendrick, Anthony Rendon and the Washington Nationals finished their amazing comeback journey — fittingly with one last late rally on the road.

Kendrick and Rendon homered in the seventh inning as the Nationals overcame a two-run deficit, rocking the Houston Astros 6-2 Wednesday night to win the first title in franchise history.

With all eyes on Scherzer and his remarkable recovery after a painkilling injection, these Nationals truly embraced their shot in the only Series when the road team won every game.

Even more against the odds: Juan Soto and Washington came from behind to win five elimination games this postseason, an unprecedented feat.

“What a story,” said Ryan Zimmerman, the only player who’s been a part of every Nationals team.

“The way this game went is the way our whole season went,” he said.

Strasburg, new lefty Patrick Corbin and the Nats brought the first World Series championship to the nation’s capital since ol’ Walter Johnson delivered the crown for the Senators in 1924. This franchise started out as the Montreal Expos in 1969 when the major leagues expanded beyond the border, putting a team with tricolor caps at jaunty Jarry Park. They moved to D.C. in 2005, ending Washington’s three-decade-plus wait for big league baseball after the Senators left town to become the Texas Rangers.

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But the unbelievable path these wild-card Nationals with the curly W logo took, well, no one could have imagined.

Because in one topsy-turvy week, they put aside the pain of past playoff failures.

“Resilient, relentless bunch of guys,” manager Dave Martinez said. “They fought all year long.”

Having lost star slugger Bryce Harper in free agency and beset by bullpen woes, Washington plummeted to 19-31 in late May. It got so bad there was talk around town the Nationals might fire Martinez and trade away Scherzer.

Instead, they stuck with the mantra that sprung up on T-shirts — Stay In The Fight.

“That was our motto,” Scherzer said.

And months later they finished it, indeed. The Nationals became the first wild-card team to acquire the Series since Madison Bumgarner and the Giants in 2014. Starting with San Francisco’s win, the last six champs have clinched on the road.

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Nationals force World Series Game 7

It’s been an unusual road to Game 7 of the World Series for Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals.

Seizing the October spotlight he missed out on as a youngster, Strasburg pitched another postseason gem into the ninth inning Tuesday night as the Nationals defeated the Houston Astros 7-2 to tie this Fall Classic at 3-3.

Juan Soto ran all the way to first base with his bat following a go-ahead homer, the same way Houston slugger Alex Bregman did earlier.

Yep, these wild-card Nationals have matched the heavily favored Astros swing for swing, hit for hit – even home run celebration for home run celebration.

Now, it’s onto a winner-take-all Game 7 on Wednesday night to resolve the only Series in which the visiting team won the first six.

”It’s weird, really. You can’t explain it,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said. The Nationals will try their ultimate comeback in a year when they were written off time after time, hoping for the first title in the 51-season history of a franchise that started as the Montreal Expos and the first for Washington since the Senators in 1924.

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Visiting teams have won three straight Game 7s in the Series since the Cardinals defeated Texas at home in 2011.

”I don’t think there’s a person in the building that would have assumed that all road teams were going to win,” Houston manager AJ Hinch said. ”We’ve just got to make sure that last one is not the same.”

Washington rebounded from a 19-31 start – the Nats were given just a 1.6% option to win the Series on May 23 – to finish 93-69. They rallied from a 3-1 eighth-inning deficit against Milwaukee in the NL wild-card game, a two-games-to-one deficit vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Division Series and a 2-1, fifth-inning deficit in Game 6 vs. the Astros.

Outscored 19-3 at Nationals Park while going 1 for 21 with runners in scoring position, the Nationals got the strong outing they needed from Strasburg, who allowed his only runs in the first inning, struck out seven and walked two while throwing 104 pitches. ”It was a mental grind out there, especially after the first,” Strasburg said. ”Just got to keep fighting.”

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Astros hammer Nationals to take 3-2 lead in World Series

The Houston Astros handed the ball to Gerrit Cole, and he gave them a firm grip on the World Series.

Minus ailing ace Max Scherzer, the Nationals were no match in this Washington wipeout.

Cole looked exactly like the stud who dominated baseball most of this season, bouncing back from a Game 1 clunker to pitch the Astros to a 7-1 win Sunday night and a 3-2 lead.

Slumping rookie Yordan Álvarez and Carlos Correa hit early two-run homers off emergency starter Joe Ross, George Springer added another postseason drive and Houston won its third straight at Nationals Park.

What a turnaround, too — outscored 17-7 overall at Minute Maid Park, Houston hammered Washington 19-3 at Nationals Park.

Scherzer beat Cole in the opener, and was the Nats’ best hope to slow Houston. But he was scratched just 3 1/2 hours before game time because of an irritated nerve near his neck, an injury that could finish him for the Series.

With the road team winning every time so far, Houston heads home with two chances to claim its second title in three years.

Justin Verlander gets the first try when he starts against Stephen Strasburg in Game 6 on Tuesday night. Cole threw three-hit ball for seven innings, nicked only by Juan Soto’s home run in the seventh, and struck out nine.

Justin Verlander gets the first try when he starts against Stephen Strasburg in Game 6 on Tuesday night. Cole threw three-hit ball for seven innings, nicked only by Juan Soto’s home run in the seventh, and struck out nine.

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Cole’s mix of 99 mph heat and sharp breaking balls induced a bevy of bad swings from the Nats as he improved to 4-1 with a 1.72 ERA this postseason. It might’ve been his final start for Houston — he’s eligible for free agency and figures to command a steep price.

Standing tall on the mound, Cole was unflappable in the face of 43,910 fans who went from fired up to furious to flat-out frustrated.

The crowd gave Ross a huge ovation when he walked onto the field for warmups, sympathetic to his situation — he had pitched a total of two innings in almost a month.

Cole ended his outing by getting Victor Robles on a called third strike, a pitch the TV zone showed to be off the plate. Robles chucked his bat, helmet and gloves, and crowd soon began a derisive chant at umpire Lance Barksdale. Cole led the majors in strikeouts this year, was second to Verlander in wins and topped the AL in ERA. Yet he hardly looked like an October star in Game 1, giving up five runs over seven uneven innings.

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Anibal Sanches, Miles Mikolas get NLCS Game 1 starts

The Nationals and Cardinals have tabbed starters for Game 1 of the NLCS, set for Friday night in St. Louis.

The visiting Nationals will send veteran Aníbal Sánchez to the hill to oppose Miles Mikolas, per MLB.com’s Jamal Collier and Anne Rogers, respectively. While the Nationals haven’t set the rest of their rotation yet, Cardinals manager Mike Shildt has set up Adam Wainwright for Game 2, Jack Flaherty for Game 3, and Dakota Hudson for Game 4.

Sánchez, 35, was quite good in his NLDS Game 3 start versus the Dodgers, limiting them to a lone run while scattering four hits and a pair of walks with nine strikeouts over five innings. Sánchez is, in a lot of ways, an afterthought when considering the Nationals’ rotation which boasts Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin.

The Cardinals know well enough not to undervalue Sánchez, who posted a 3.85 ERA across 30 regular season starts.

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Mikolas, 31, enjoyed a major league career rebirth last year after spending several years in Japan with the Yomiuri Giants. In 2018, he led the league with 18 wins while posting a 2.83 ERA in 200 2/3 innings.

He ended sixth in NL Cy Young voting. He wasn’t able to follow up with the same level of success this year, finishing the regular season leading the league with 14 losses along with a 4.16 ERA.

Mikolas was good in his NLDS Game 1 start against the Braves, though, allowing a lone run over five innings. He also tossed a perfect inning of relief in Game 4.

The Cardinals will start Adam Wainwright in Game 2 of the NLCS, followed by ace Jack Flaherty in Game 3 and Dakota Hudson in Game 4.

Nationals manager Dave Martinez said X-rays presented nothing broken on the hand of catcher Kurt Suzuki, who was hit by a pitch in Washington’s win on Wednesday night. Suzuki was going to go through concussion protocol once the Nationals arrived in St. Louis.

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