Walters gets first big league start in left field

Walters gets first big league start in left field

OAKLAND -- With ailing first baseman Adam LaRoche (right quad) getting rest, Jayson Werth in the designated-hitter role and Kevin Frandsen at first base on Saturday, Nationals manager Matt Williams trotted out an orthodox lineup against the A's.

Most notably, rookie switch-hitting infielder Zach Walters was starting in left field and batting ninth. Before Saturday, Walter had only played one game as a professional in the outfield, coming in 2012 with Class A Advanced Potomac.

"It's not ideal for us to have to put Zach out there," Williams said. "But he does give us, certainly, more left-handed at-bats tonight against a really tough pitcher [A's righty Sonny Gray]. … Zach's got the ability to change the game with one swing. He's been working out there, he's played out there a little bit, and he's OK, as far as his comfort level out there."

Walters has shown some nice pop in his bat in limited time with the Nationals this season after batting .253/.286/.517 with 29 homers and 77 RBIs for Triple-A Syracuse last season. He's been used exclusively as late-game sub in 2014, batting .167 (3-for-18) with three homers and three RBIs entering play Saturday.

But the biggest concern clearly has to be on the defensive end, given Walters' lack of game experience at the position. Williams still sounded confident in the 24-year-old's athletic ability.

"He's got a really good arm, he's got good speed, he covers ground," WIlliams said. "He hasn't been playing out there every day for the last five years, but he's got the ability to play. He moves around good, he catches balls fine out there."

Alex Espinoza is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.