Notes: Zim's debut; Harris update; Eaton homers

February 28th, 2020

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- made his Spring Training debut on Thursday in preparation for his 16th Major League season.

He had been the lone Nationals player yet to appear in a spring game, and he came to manager Dave Martinez this week to say he wanted to get in on the action.

“I told him, ‘It’s day one. Don’t go crazy,’” Martinez said prior to the Nationals’ 5-5 tie with the Astros. “He’s been taking a lot of ground balls on his own. We had him in the back fields taking swings. He feels like he’s ready. And he looks great, he really does.”

Zimmerman hit fifth in the order behind Howie Kendrick. He made two plate appearances, flying out on a hard-hit ball to center field in the first inning and grounding out to second base in the third.

“He had good at-bats,” Martinez said. “He said he felt really good.”

Defensively, Zimmerman manned first base. He was assessed an error off a throw to second base on a fielder’s choice in the opening frame. Part of the reason why Martinez wanted Zimmerman to experience real-time baseball was to “get his legs underneath him.”

“For me, he just kind of didn’t throw through it,” Martinez said of the error. “He kind of let up a little bit. It happens.”

Zimmerman will have the next game off when the Nationals host the Rays on Friday afternoon. The team will assess Saturday when he plays again.

“It was nice to see him out there,” Martinez said.

Nationals to be cautious with Harris
’ debut with the Nationals against his former team was pushed back from Thursday night because of a left abdomen injury. The right-handed reliever threw an extended bullpen session on Tuesday and woke up the following day with discomfort.

“He tweaked an abdominal,” Martinez said. “Just [as a] precaution, we’re going to hold him back and just wait three or four days, not let him throw and then re-evaluate him.”

The Nationals signed Harris this winter to bolster the back end of their bullpen. He led all qualified American League relievers with a 1.50 ERA last season.

“He had an MRI -- it’s just a little tweak,” Martinez said. “He said he feels OK, but we’re going to be on the conservative side and kind of build him up. We’re in February, and there’s no sense in rushing him out there.”

Eaton goes yard
kick-started the Nats’ offense in the first inning with a leadoff homer to right. He followed up in his next at-bat with a double to center field. Eaton went 2-for-2 with three runs scored, an RBI and a walk.

Martinez has considered different looks for the batting order this season following the departure of Anthony Rendon and has said he likes having Eaton toward the top of the order.

No breaks on birthdays
Starting pitcher Aníbal Sánchez turned 36 on Thursday and spent his special day at the ballpark. The 15th-year veteran threw off the mound at the Nationals’ training complex.

Up next
Stephen Strasburg will return to game action for the first time since being named the World Series MVP when the Nationals host the Rays on Friday at 1:05 p.m ET (watch live on MLB.TV). The righty threw 14 1/3 innings in the World Series alone, and the team has been making sure not to rush him back too soon. Strasburg and Patrick Corbin are the only starting pitchers yet to make their spring debuts. Corbin gets the nod on Saturday.