Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman, Joe Ross opt out of 2020 MLB season

The Washington Nationals’ Joe Ross (41) celebrates with Ryan Zimmerman (11) after he scored on an RBI double by Bryce Harper during the third inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins, Wednesday, April 20, 2016, in Miami. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)

The Washington Nationals announced on Monday that Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross will not play the 2020 MLB season, citing health concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Zimmerman released a separate announcement through his representatives, and made clear that his decision does not impact whether the 35-year-old first baseman will play beyond 2020.

Zimmerman and Ross are both under one-year contracts; Zimmerman will become an unrestricted free agent after the 2020 season, while Ross will go to arbitration.

Ross, 27, will miss a season in which he was expected to compete for the role of fifth starting pitcher in the Nationals’ rotation. In 2019, Ross went 4-4 with a 5.48 ERA in the regular season, and made a spot start for Max Scherzer in Game 5 of the World Series, lasting seven innings in a 7-1 loss to the Houston Astros.

Zimmerman, dubbed “Mr. National” for his status as the franchise’s first-ever draft pick in 2005, holds most of the team’s career hitting records, and his two homers and seven RBIs last postseason helped Washington win its first World Series title. He hit the Nationals’ first World Series home run in the Game 1 victory in Houston.

Zimmerman has been writing a diary for The Associated Press since the coronavirus shut down sports this spring. In the 10th installment last week, he expressed concerns about playing in 2020.

“I have a 3-week-old baby,” Zimmerman said. “My mother has multiple sclerosis and is super high-risk; if I end up playing, I can pretty much throw out the idea of seeing her until weeks after the season is over. There’s a lot of factors that I and others have to consider. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer; it’s everybody’s individual choice.”

The announcement came days before MLB teams were to return to camp to prepare for a truncated 60-game regular season, set to begin either July 23 or 24.

The Nationals are expected to open the season at home against the New York Yankees.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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