GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- When the odds were against him, Bradley Zimmer was confident that he would be ready in time for Spring Training, and he’s done everything he can through the first three weeks of camp to keep his word.
When Zimmer underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair the labrum in his right shoulder last July, he was given a timeframe of 8-12 months to return to full baseball activities. As he now sits around the eight-month mark, he’s checked nearly everything off the list that he needed to accomplish before being considered to be put into games.
“I’m feeling really good, really confident at the plate,” Zimmer said. “I’m excited to get in games hopefully soon.”
Now, Indians manager Terry Francona is left with a decision of whether or not to put the 26-year-old center fielder in spring games before the team breaks camp in two weeks.
“I don’t know,” Francona said. “He’s getting closer and closer.”
There’s no doubt that Zimmer wants to get back to Major League game activity as quickly as possible, and the current need in the Indians’ outfield can only fuel that fire. But with Leonys Martin in center field, where will Zimmer fit when he eventually rejoins the Tribe? Francona will likely have to assess his corner outfielders, whoever they may be at the time, and see if moving Zimmer to right or left would strengthen their lineup.
Although Zimmer has been progressing nicely throughout Spring Training, Francona won’t have to make these decisions just yet. The manager said that there will be more recovery involved with Zimmer’s return than someone like shortstop Francisco Lindor, who is bouncing back from a right calf strain.
“Yes, he does [want to play],” Francona said. “And you find that more often than you don’t with guys. They take it competitively, and you appreciate that.”
Zimmer has already been taking batting practice with his teammates on the field and got a few at-bats in a simulated game at the Indians’ facility in Goodyear. He took his time advancing through different stages of throwing to ensure he didn’t cause any setbacks with his shoulder. He is now scheduled to throw from the outfield to the bases on Wednesday.
“I think that’s the hardest part, is not getting anxious because you’re watching everybody else play and it’s been a while since I’ve been in there,” Zimmer said. “It’s definitely tough, but I’m thinking more about the long run than getting in there quick and having a setback or whatever it may be.”
“I think the more you think about a date or try to get ahead of yourself is when something happens,” Zimmer said. “I’ve found the best way to do it is just stick with the process and stay day-to-day.”