Nationals' Zimmerman says he has lot of baseball left in him, switch to 1st a 'new chapter'



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VIERA, Florida — The way Ryan Zimmerman sees it, change is not something to get all worked up about.

After being the Washington Nationals opening day third baseman for the past nine seasons, the 30-year-old is making the transition to first base this spring.

"All good things come to an end," Zimmerman said Tuesday. "Not too many people get to play as long as I have, and be as lucky as I have been so far. I've still got a lot of baseball left. It's like a new chapter, I guess. We'll go from there."

For the second straight day, Zimmerman spent his morning working out in the stadium with manager Matt Williams and coaches Mark Weidemaier and Jeff Garber. He took ground balls and infield throws — including some in the dirt — and also spent some time practicing flipping the ball to the pitcher covering the bag.

"A lot of it's just being over there and getting some experience . not so much in learning the cutoffs, but getting that muscle memory and getting used to the responsibilities over there," Zimmerman said. "Other than that, it's a pretty self-explanatory position. I've just got to get some experience in some games this spring."

When Williams came in as the Nationals manager last season, he announced Zimmerman would get some work at first base during the spring. In fact, Zimmerman played there for five games last year and also spent 30 games in left field while playing only 23 at third in an injury-plagued campaign.

With Anthony Rendon establishing himself as a potential star at third base, and first baseman Adam LaRoche leaving during free agency, the Nationals have decided it's time to have Zimmerman switch corner infield spots.

"It's going to be an easier transition for him as opposed to other folks because he's a fantastic athlete," Williams said. "But still, it's the other side of the diamond. He's working every morning on it.

"It's good to be able to get him out there by himself and be able to take our time and do the things we want to do. That will continue. He's never shied away from extra reps and working hard, that's for sure."

Second baseman Danny Espinosa noted there is a difference between fielding ground balls that have a lot of top spin, and taking throws that have back spin on them. Bur like the Nationals manager, he doesn't believe Zimmerman will have a tough time making the switch.

"With his athleticism and the glove work that he's always had at third base, it will be a much easier transition for him to go to first base because his glove works so well," Espinosa said.

Zimmerman, who played in only 61 games last year because of shoulder and hamstring injuries, is hoping a slight change in his offseason regimen will help him stay in the lineup for at least 150 games in 2015. He said he feels healthy right now.

"The last year-and-a-half, two years have been rough for me," he said. "Obviously, the first seven years, I played almost every single day. I didn't have to worry about any aches and pains. I was 20 years old. Nothing ever hurt.

"It's been a learning experience."

Switching positions will certainly be a challenge, but Zimmerman called it "fun" and appeared to like the idea of having to prove himself all over again. He is hoping to become as good at first base as he was at third.

"It's a big part of us being a good team," he said. "That's the whole goal. I have to be the best that I can over there and help the guys out in the field like our first basemen in the past have helped me out."

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