Ryan Zimmerman has never seen a player like Angels superstar Shoehei Ohtani in his 17-year career.
Because nobody has. Not since Babe Ruth — the most hallowed name in the sport — regularly made starts for the Boston Red Sox in 1919, over a century ago, has somebody taken to the game by storm on both fronts with such dominance.
On Tuesday, Ohtani will become the first player in MLB history to begin a game as a league's lead-off hitter, batting first as the American League's designated hitter, and throw its first pitch, as the AL's starting pitcher.
While Ohtani has been dominant in the short term as a starting pitcher and DH, questions have arisen about what the Angels might do with him in the long term, to maximize his value while simultaneously minimizing the risk of injury.
Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, a two-time All-Star himself, thinks he might have the answer.
"Being a starting pitcher obviously puts a lot of strain on your arm and your body," Zimmerman told The Sports Junkies on Tuesday, presented by MainStreet Bank. "I mean the guy's got — what? — 33 home runs at the break. So...? Yeah, it's a tough decision. I mean I guess it's a good problem to have. I think a lot of teams would love to have that problem."
Zimmerman thinks the most risk-averse solution might be to move Ohtani into a closer role on the pitching side, while keeping his bat readily available as a DH.
"For me? I don't know what I would do," he confessed. "For me, I think you DH him or you let him play and, like I said, I think you close him and just, at least you get some value out of the pitching side of it without taxing him."
"But what an unbelievable talent, to be able to come to the big leagues and do this," Zimmerman said. "Nobody's done this in the modern era, so it's been fun to watch. It's good for the game, and hopefully he does both and stays healthy, and does it for a long time, and I think that would be great for the game of baseball."