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Posted at 7:15 AM ET, 02/24/2011

Ryan Zimmerman explains why more veterans will matter

By Adam Kilgore
Morning brushback

The times that make baseball players, really, are the moments in between. The afternoons before night games, the winter workouts, the morning weight-lifting during spring training. During those times, Ryan Zimmerman is usually apart from most of his teammates, maybe with one or two of them. That's what works for him. He built his success on finding a routine and taking care of what he needs to do, and he expects his teammates to do the same. Or at least he believes, in a perfect scenario, they should do the same - find what works for them, and then do it every day.

zimmerman dive.jpg

This season more than any other since he's been in Washington, Zimmerman thinks, the Nationals should have a team full of players capable of handling their business without the need for coaches or Manager Jim Riggleman to look over them. Zimmerman has talked about this with Riggleman. On Wednesday morning, Riggleman met with Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond to determine standards and policies for the clubhouse. Riggleman wants to give the players the freedom to choose their own brand of order. Zimmerman wants the same thing.

Zimmerman called this Nationals team the first he's played on that's "more of a veteran team." The Nationals brought in Werth, Rick Ankiel, Jerry Hairston, Matt Stairs, Alex Cora and others. John Lannan can hardly be considered a young pitcher anymore. Desmond's not a rookie anymore. Nyjer Morgan turned 30. If the Nationals lose this year, youth will not be a plausible excuse.

Yesterday, I spoke with Zimmerman briefly about the change in the makeup of the Nationals' clubhouse.

How important is having more veteran players?
"It's very important. We don't have to worry about making sure guys are ready. Everyone knows what they need to do individually to get ready to play the game. That's what you want on your team. As much as you will help other guys, it's better when you have guys that know what they need to do and just go ahead and do it, and when it's game time you're ready to go.

Have you had that since you've been here?
"We've had it, but not as much we have this year. This is the first year where we have more of a veteran team. I think Jim can feel comfortable letting us do that now. It's good for us, and it's good for him, too."

Does it help that Riggleman is in his second year, so you know what to expect him and vice versa?
Yeah, I guess. I think the past years haven't really compared because we have a more veteran team this year. In the past, he had to make sure that the younger guys were ready to play and had the best chance to succeed. Now, he can kind of just let us help him with that and he can go and not have to worry about - not baby-sitting, but not have to worry about making sure everyone is ready. He can just relax and worry about the game, what he's supposed to worry about. He can concentrate on that stuff.

What do you mean when you say 'get ready'?
The more you play, you get a routine. That's the hardest part. You don't know what to do when you're younger. You'll see young guys out there with the coaches taking groundballs. Maybe me or [Adam] LaRoche, it's not important to go out and do that, because we know what we do every single day to play. Those guys are still learning. They've had some help the last couple years, and now they're to the point where they have their own routine with that stuff. That's the point you want to get to, where everyone on your team does their own thing individually to get ready for the game. And once the game starts, it's your team.

This year, will it be easier to make the clubhouse the way it should be?
This is the most veteran guys we've ever had. So that makes it a lot easier to not worry about what other people do. You worry about yourself, and you get ready to play.


Danny Espinosa is set to take over at second base for the Nationals with a healthy hand and his first major league experience under his belt.

One note left on the cutting room floor, researched for me by Nats p.r. maven Bill Gluvna: Espinosa had 28 home runs and 25 steals last season, majors and minors combined. Chris Young and Carlos Gonzalez were the only two other players in all of professional baseball who also went 25-25.

By Adam Kilgore  | February 24, 2011; 7:15 AM ET
Categories:  Morning brushback  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Bryce Harper's second day, Chien-Ming Wang's progress, Jim Riggleman's meeting
Next: Bryce Harper will likely play, but not start, in the Nationals spring training opener at the Mets


Hopefully, you meant Michael Young as the Chris Young I know is now pitching for the Mets.

Posted by: jacktaven | February 24, 2011 9:03 AM | Report abuse

jacktaven, different Chris Young. How about doing a tiny bit of research before posting? Any decent baseball fan knows that the healthiest Chris Young in MLB has been playing outfield for the Arizona Diamondbacks for the past 4+ years.

Posted by: Sunderland | February 24, 2011 9:27 AM | Report abuse

My bad. I should have known however the Diamondbacks haven't been on my radar for some time. Justin Upton, our own Adam LaRoche, and Zim's buddy who is now in Baltimore overshadowed Chris Young in my memory banks. But I should have known.

Posted by: jacktaven | February 24, 2011 9:55 AM | Report abuse

props for stand up response

Posted by: Sunderland | February 24, 2011 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Am I crazy for thinking Espinosa could be an option at leadoff if Nyjer doesn't work out or is traded?

Posted by: Meridian1 | February 24, 2011 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Am I the only one troubled by this article? One of the knocks on Zimmerman is his reluctance to step up and be a recognized leader on this team. He talks about the advantage of the veteran presence on the team and the need for everybody to individually prepare themselves for the game. He does it apart from his teammates or with only one or two others. While I agree that everyone has to find a comfortable routine to prepare, this "individual" stuff is a concern. Yeah, there are more veterans on this team, but there are still a lot of young guys that the Nats are going to be counting on, who could use some guidance from the veterans. Zimmerman has always had this detached demeanor and perhaps that's the approach he needs to take in order to be as good as he's been. But I'm not sure I can stomach another 90+ loss season from a bunch of individual veterans. Hopefully, by the time Harper(Charlie Hustle 2.0)arrives he hasn't been corrupted by such an attitude. I'm ready for this team to play with a little fire!

Posted by: willypops | February 24, 2011 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Zim can lead any style he wants. I'm okay with that. I think being the best 3rrd basemen in the league has given him that right. Even being on 90+ losing teams. I think what Zim is trying to say, is that he's glad he won't be the ONLY veteran out there that his own successful routine. It's one thing to have 1 guy doing it, like Zimmerman, but it's better if there are 3 or 4 guys just like him. That's my take on what Zim was saying.

Posted by: destewar | February 24, 2011 1:34 PM | Report abuse

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