Inside Pitch Live with Ryan Zimmerman

Ryan Zimmerman spent some time prior to Saturday’s game in the PNC Diamond Club, fielding questions from fans and moderator Dave Jageler for another installment of Inside Pitch Live:


zimminsidepitchlive.jpgSome exciting young players are breaking into the lineup–Ramos, Desmond, Espinosa, etc. What do you feel about the direction of some of the young players and the team?

This is the first year where we’ve really had a chance to see what we’ve heard about the last two or three years. The last two or three years have been tough. We’ve lost a lot of games. It’s been a struggle, but we’re finally starting to see what they’ve been drafting, what they’ve been telling us is coming. This is the first year that I can honestly say we’ve taken a step forward talent-wise. We always think we can win, but every night we have a chance talent-wise as well. It’s going to be exciting to watch those young guys grow up, be here for a while and help us take this to the next level.

Last year you were an All-Star, won a Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove. You’ve had another good season. How does this year compare to last year, personally? Are you better in ways?

Last year is going to be tough to beat. I knew that coming in. But you’ve got to try and get better every year. The key to this game is to be consistent. I think after three or four years, I’ve finally learned what I have to do to be ready to play every day. I think that’s the big thing to keep in mind with all these young guys. It takes two or three years to find out what you need to do to get yourself ready.  They’re going to have to learn and learning at this level is not easy. Obviously they’re very talented, but it takes a little while. I feel like I’m finally to that point in my career and I want to do all I can to help them get to where I’m at, so we can do better as a team.

When you’re standing in the batter’s box waiting for the pitch and all the fans are calling your name, does that juice you or distract you?

I can’t hear it. On deck you can hear some things, but I really make a conscious effort not to look in the stands, because I know if I look once, I’m going to look every single time I go out there–because there are a lot of distractions, a lot of things going on. I try and stay focused. But when you get in the box, everything goes blank. You can’t hear anything because you’re concentrating so much.

One of the most disappointing things to a fan is to see a young player come up, only to get injured. Maybe they are demanding too much production too soon. Are the teams doing anything different nowadays in terms of training to prevent this?

Training has come a long way in baseball. It used to be you play your season and you show up for Spring Training. Now, if you don’t work out in the offseason, you’re going to be a step behind. I think that aspect of the sport has come a long way. I think as far as taking care of young players, I think they baby pitchers a lot. Obviously they invest a lot of money in them. It’s kind of a delicate situation. You have innings counts, pitch count. It’s a lot different than it used to be. As far as young position players like Danny or Ian, those guys are young and they’re in really, really good shape. If they get hurt, it’s almost a freak accident. As far as Jim [Riggleman] giving them days off, I think it’s more mental. Because they’ve always been the best at everything they’ve ever done. So they come up here and they fail a little bit. Sometimes you need a day just to take a step back and watch the game and regroup. Jim is really good at giving that.

But you were drafted in ’05 and in the Major Leagues within a couple of months. You didn’t have that failure in the Minors because you were up so quickly. What set you apart to allow you to do that? You didn’t have a lot of days off your first year.

I thought if I took a day off I might get sent down. I figured I’m here. I’m might as well play. Now I’m to the point where I get a couple days off a year. You have aches and pains and some days, honestly, when you get to the Park, you’re really contemplating taking the day off. But once the game starts and you get into the momentum of the game, everything kind of goes away.

What’s it like changing first basemen? Adam Dunn is about 12 feet tall. Is it difficult to adjust your game when someone else comes in?

It’s different but it’s not too bad. Obviously, Adam’s a very nice target. It’s nice having him over there. He’s worked very hard this year and has gotten a lot better. He’s going to be, I think, an above average first baseman. It would be nice for him to be here for awhile. But anyways…(laughing). When Ronnie Belliard used to play over there, it was tough.

When you were a kid playing baseball, when were you better than the other kids? Was it always that way, or did you start out the same and suddenly get better?

I never really thought I was better. I just had fun playing. I played baseball, basketball–I played everything when I was little. I just enjoyed being outside and playing with my friends. It’s one of those things where I guess it kind of just happened. I never really thought that I was the best at anything. I liked to go outside, have fun, be competitive and do things with my friends. Obviously as you get older, into high school and college, you realize things because people tell you. But when I was young, I just enjoyed playing.

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