The Washington Nationals expect to get their star third baseman back after a six-week stint on the disabled list.
It's uncertain, however, if he'll return to his normal position.Ryan Zimmerman may make his debut in left field in Tuesday's series opener against the struggling Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park.Zimmerman got off to a strong start to the season, batting .364 with two homers in 10 games, but broke his right thumb diving into second base during a pickoff attempt on April 12 and was placed on the DL the next day.He began a rehab assignment with Class-A Potomac on Friday, and played the last three games in left field. The Nationals are giving Zimmerman, who has played 1,119 games at third base and one at shortstop in his fifth major league game in 2005, work in left because he was having throwing problems at third and Anthony Rendon is playing well filling in at the hot corner. Rendon is batting .263 and tied with Adam LaRoche for second on the team with 27 RBIs."It's baseball. It's the same," Zimmerman told MLB's official website. "Obviously a different position, but the game still looks and feels the same. So nothing too crazy."While Zimmerman has been getting significant practice in left, he is still expected to play some third and first upon his return.The Nationals (27-28) finished with five hits in Sunday's 2-0 loss to Texas after plating 19 runs and pounding out 27 hits in winning the first two in the series.Washington dropped two of three in Philadelphia from May 2-4 in its only series with the Phillies this season, but has won nine of the last 11 matchups in the nation's capital.LaRoche, who has two homers and hit safely in all six games since coming off the DL, was 3 for 8 with a home run and three walks against the Phillies last month.Philadelphia (24-31) is coming off Monday's 11-2 defeat to the Mets, losing four times in a five-game home series. The Phillies have dropped nine of 13 and are a season-worst seven games under .500."We didn't play that well this homestand," Chase Utley said. "Nothing we can do about it now. We have to go on the road and win games."Utley went 3 for 19 while leaving nine men on base against New York, and is batting .125 (4 for 32) in his last nine games in Washington. He is 2 for 11 against scheduled starter Jordan Zimmermann (3-2, 4.07 ERA) since 2012, while Jimmy Rollins is 3 for 19.After carrying a 2.92 ERA over his first seven starts, Zimmermann has a 5.96 ERA in his last four. He allowed four runs and eight hits in five innings in Wednesday's 8-5, 10-inning loss to Miami.Although opponents are batting .307 against him -- baseball's fourth-worst mark -- the right-hander insists there's no cause for concern."My stuff's there," Zimmermann said. "I'm making good pitches where I want, they're just squaring the ball up right now."This will be his first outing of the season against the Phillies after going 3-1 with a 2.63 ERA in four starts in 2013.Philadelphia counters with David Buchanan (1-1, 3.86), who'll be making his third career start.Buchanan gave up two runs over five innings to beat the Dodgers on May 24, and followed that up by allowing four in 6 2/3 innings in Thursday's 4-1 loss to the Mets. The righty has walked one in those 11 2/3 innings.
Jordan Zimmermann has allowed an opponent batting average of .300 in at-bats ending with a fastball this season, 30 points above the league average. Chase Utley, Marlon Byrd and Carlos Ruiz are each hitting over .300 in at-bats ending with a fastball.