Ryan Zimmerman shines in return

Updated: June 3, 2014, 10:19 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Ryan Zimmerman hit a pair of doubles and handled two chances with aplomb Tuesday night in his first game for the Washington Nationals since missing 44 games with a fractured right thumb.

[+] EnlargeRyan Zimmerman
Mike Zarrilli/Getty ImagesRyan Zimmerman, who missed 44 games on the DL with a broken thumb, delivered in his big league debut in left field against the Phillies on Tuesday.

Zimmerman went 2 for 4 with one RBI as Washington beat the slumping Philadelphia Phillies 7-0 after being reinstated before the game with a broken right thumb. Of greater interest was his first major league appearance in the outfield after more than 1,100 games as a third baseman, a move necessitated by his throwing problems and the need for a strong hitter to play left field while Bryce Harper recovers from thumb surgery.

Like many infielders-turned-outfielders before him, Zimmerman learned the action isn't as fast and furious when stationed 300 feet from home plate. Playing deeper than a usual left fielder and using a glove borrowed from teammate Jayson Werth, Zimmerman made a nice read on a slicing line drive from Chase Utley in the fourth inning to make a catch that drew a disproportionately grand ovation considering it looked more or less routine.

Zimmerman also caught a shallow flyout by Marlon Byrd in the sixth before being removed for defensive replacement Nate McLouth after seven innings. "

"I feel like I'm athletic enough to at least blend in and not cause problems,'' Zimmerman said before the game.

Zimmerman, a third baseman whose rehab assignment included his pro debut in the outfield, was on the DL since April 13. He suffered the thumb injury while diving into second base during a pickoff attempt.

He came into the game with a .364 batting average with two home runs and six RBIs in his 10 games with the Nats this season.

To make room on the roster, the Nationals optioned Tyler Moore to Triple-A Syracuse.

Zimmerman played three games in left field at Class-A Potomac and was 5-for-14 at the plate during his rehab stint there.

The Nationals had several reasons to experiment with Zimmerman in left field as he was having throwing problems at third base before his latest injury.

The Nats also have had issues getting production from the left field position as primary fill-in Nate McLouth is hitting only .180 this season. Bryce Harper, the regular starter at that position, is out until mid-July following thumb surgery.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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