Nationals: Bell and Zimmerman Look To Answer The Call At First
By Max Rayman
Washington’s first base duo has taken Spring Training by storm.
Entering the off-season, Washington had a glaring hole at first base. The Nationals 2020 platoon pair of Eric Thames and Howie Kendrick had moved on, with Thames heading to Japan and Kendrick deciding to hang up his cleats. Mike Rizzo kept his poker face, remained unfazed, and delivered National fans an early Christmas present. On Christmas Eve, Rizzo traded for All-Star Josh Bell, who is an ideal bounce-back candidate. In 2019, Bell hit .277, with 37 homers, 116 RBIs, and an OPS of .936, but failed to build upon his success, hitting a measly .226, with eight homers, 22 RBIs, and an OPS of .669. in 2020.
Despite his shiny new toy, Rizzo wasn’t finished and followed this up by acquiring some much-needed depth at the position. Enter Mr. National. The face of the franchise re-signed with the only team he’s ever played for on a one-year deal. With Ryan Zimmerman and Bell in tow, on paper, first base quickly became a position of strength, but the duo would need to prove themselves. Important questions arose. Was Bell’s 2019 a fluke? Does Zimmerman have anything left in the tank? How would sitting out of the 2020 season affect the long-time National?
With Spring Training in full swing, those questions have been answered. For Bell, this off-season he teamed up with Washington’s hitting coach Kevin Long to work on his swing. The tweaks Bell added to his swing worked, with the slugger dominating this Spring. In 36 at-bats, he’s hitting an impressive .389, with four homers, 10 RBIs, and an OPS of 1.326.
Manager Dave Martinez has been enthused when addressing Bell with the media. “We wanted him to be aggressive in the strike zone,” Martinez said. “We talked about that with him. Yet, he understands that taking his bases is part of the process. I love having him. He is unique. He is a switch-hitter with power from both sides. He loves to play the game. He is a great teammate in the clubhouse.”
Known for always starting the season slowly, Ryan Zimmerman has hit the ground running. In 15 at-bats, he’s hitting .437, with three homers, nine RBIs, and an OPS of 1.729. Zimmerman has already left no doubt that missing all of 2020 hasn’t affected his play. Instead, it’s been the opposite.
Zimmerman and Bell have put on a show early and often this Spring, leaving fans excited for the upcoming season. While making assumptions based on Spring Training results is silly, the duo has answered any questions that lingered over their heads.