MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Baker talks with Zim, expresses confidence

Manager believes 1st baseman is 'carrier,' can boost offense

Baker talks with Zim, expresses confidence

WASHINGTON -- Nationals manager Dusty Baker reluctantly had a conversation with first baseman Ryan Zimmerman after Monday's 8-1 victory over the Mets.

Baker thought about sitting Zimmerman against Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard for Tuesday's game because of Zimmerman's current slump. The manager remembered that Zimmerman didn't start in Syndergaard's last outing against Washington on Sept. 2, but after their conversation ended on Monday, Baker decided to put him in the lineup.

"[Baker] called me in there and asked me if I wanted to play," Zimmerman said. "Yeah, I'm always going to want to play. You can't [get out of the slump] if you don't play. … Obviously, I need to get going."

Although Zimmerman is having his worst season in the big leagues, Baker made it a point to say that the right-handed-hitting slugger is banged up and nothing more than that. According to the skipper, people are asking why he continues to play Zimmerman. Baker says it helps that the Nationals entered Tuesday with a 10-game lead over the second-place Mets, and Zimmerman has a history of carrying a team on offense.

"I have to play Zim enough to keep his confidence up, let him know that I have confidence in him. We need Zim," Baker said. "When he got that base hit [on Monday], I saw him looking up into the heavens like he was so thankful. I think guys are pulling for him harder than anyone on the team because they have seen what Zim can do. I've seen it from the other side. I have not seen it from here.

"One thing, you are not going to do it on the bench. I'm glad we have this lead. I know a lot of people are asking why am I still playing him, but this guy is a carrier. There are carriers, and there are helpers. A helper can help you for so long, but a carrier can carry you [for a long time]. A couple of weeks is all we need."

Zimmerman said he is grateful to have Baker in his corner.

"Dusty has been in the game a long time. He has been through a lot. He knows the game," Zimmerman said. "He is sticking with me to try and get me going. With a few weeks in the regular season, hopefully, we can get some balls to fall in and get hot."

Bill Ladson has covered the Nationals/Expos for MLB.com since 2002 and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.