Zimmerman's errors could become a National problem

The Nationals have a problem.

They'd rather not admit it publicly, and you can hardly blame them for that. But they have a problem, and they know it.

Ryan Zimmerman is having throwing issues again. He's throwing the ball away, he's costing them games and there's not an easy way out of it.

"They're very, very concerned," said one baseball official who has spoken with the Nationals.

How could they not be?

Zimmerman has four errors, all throwing, all in the last week. His errors have led to seven unearned runs and have contributed to three losses (including two to the rival Braves).

"He's actually lucky he doesn't have more," said one scout who has watched the Nationals. "[First baseman Adam] LaRoche has bailed him out a couple of times."

Zimmerman's throwing has been an issue before, because of shoulder problems. He had 19 errors last year; only one third baseman in baseball had more.

But his shoulder is healthy now, and the problems have continued. Manager Davey Johnson told reporters on Wednesday that he doesn't think Zimmerman's troubles are mental. But if you thought a guy had a mental block about throwing, would you really want to talk about it?

The Nationals' long-term plan has been that Zimmerman would eventually move to first base (although they have denied that, too). It's why they were hesitant to sign LaRoche to more than a one-year deal last winter, although they eventually gave in and gave him two years.

Zimmerman and LaRoche are both big parts of the Nationals' lineup, so moving Zimmerman to first base now isn't a viable solution. Besides, the Nationals want Anthony Rendon (Zimmerman's eventual successor at third base) to have a full year in the minor leagues.

It's understandable that the Nationals would keep saying it's not an issue and keep hoping that Zimmerman's throwing improves before it costs the team too many games.

"I'm not concerned whatsoever," general manager Mike Rizzo to CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman on Wednesday. "He's shown he's a terrific defensive third baseman. He's gone back to his original arm slot because his shoulder is healthy.

"With repetition, he'll get it back."

Perhaps he will. So far, he hasn't.

"It's tough to even watch him play catch right now," one scout said.

The Nationals entered the season as baseball's most complete team, without any obvious weaknesses. Now they have one. We'll see and they'll see how much it hurts them.

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