WEST PALM BEACH, Fl. — The clubhouse was a lot fuller Friday with position players reporting for Spring Training.
Ryan Zimmerman showed up with a big box of batting gloves, ready to put a disappointing 2016 behind him. He batted just .218 last year, a career low. That was 31 points below his previous worst – which he posted the year before in 2015.
“It happens. I’m gonna learn from it, gonna accept it, and this year move forward and show people I can still play,” he said Friday.
While Zimmerman struggled last year, Daniel Murphy flourished, batting .347. That was 27 points above his previous personal best.
“It’s a tough league,” said Murphy. “You never think you’re going to end up doing that.”
Murphy said he enjoys talking hitting almost as much as actually hitting. So when discussing Zimmerman — whose locker is just a few feet away — Murphy was excited.
“He hit the ball extremely hard last year,” said Murphy of Zimmerman. “It’s really hard to hit the ball on the barrel in this league, so he’s already kind of doing the hard part. I don’t think he needs to make big adjustments, either.”
A lot of Zimmerman’s hard hits went for hard-luck outs. But he makes no excuses, nor is he asking for sympathy.
“My dad always tells me you make your own luck,” he said. “You can say I didn’t get a lot of luck with a lot of hard hit balls (getting) caught, but the truth is the numbers were what the numbers were.”
Manager Dusty Baker believes the Z-Man can improve those numbers if he comes to the plate swinging.
“It’s easier to get the ball in the air earlier in the count if you’re anticipating than it is hitting with two strikes all the time, because you’re more in a protective mode than you are in an aggressive mode,” said Baker.
For his part, Zimmerman is willing to make the necessary changes.
“This game is all about adjustments. If you don’t adjust, someone is going to take your job in this sport. I’ve been around here so long that people know me so well and know the way I hit. It’s so easy having conversations with people,” he said.
If talk isn’t cheap and Murphy and Baker get Zimmerman back on track, his bat could make a big difference. Zimmerman averaged 24 home runs and 83 RBI per season while batting .288 from 2009-13.