Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and right-handed pitcher Joe Ross will opt out of the 2020 Major League Baseball season.
“Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross have decided not to participate in the 2020 season for the personal health and safety of themselves and their loved ones,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said in a statement. “We are 100% supportive of their decision to not play this year. We will miss their presence in the clubhouse and their contributions on the field.”
Zimmerman pointed to the health and safety of his family as his reason for sitting out. In addition to having three children, the youngest of which is less than a month old, Zimmerman’s mother suffers from multiple sclerosis.
“After a great deal of thought and given my family circumstances — three young children, including a newborn, and a mother at high risk — I have decided not to participate in the 2020 season,” Zimmerman said Monday in a statement released through his agent.
In a running diary he is writing for the Associated Press, Zimmerman said last week that he was still on the fence about whether to play. In that entry, he wrote that he didn’t think there was a right or wrong answer for how to approach the season, which will be played in ballparks around the country as opposed to inside one “bubble” location.
“I cannot speak for anyone else, but given the unusual nature of the season, this is the best decision for me and my family, and I truly appreciate the organization’s understanding and support,” Zimmerman said Monday.
The 35-year-old added he is not retiring from baseball “at this time.”
Before the pandemic disrupted the start of baseball season and other sports, Nationals fans waited with bated breath to see if Zimmerman would re-sign with the defending World Series champion Nationals or retire from the game.
The veteran signed a one-year deal in January.
“I have not decided on my future in baseball past 2020,” Zimmerman said. “But this year, I’ll be staying safe at home and pulling as hard as anyone for the guys to defend our championship.”
The Nationals will miss Zimmerman, the franchise record-holder for hits, RBI, doubles and home runs.
Offseason signing Eric Thames projects to be their primary first baseman without Zimmerman. He could share the assignment with Howie Kendrick, who played 48 games at first base for Washington last year, but Kendrick is a likely candidate for designated hitter.
Ross, meanwhile, would have been a favorite to win the No. 5 job in the Nationals’ starting rotation behind Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Aníbal Sánchez. Now, that duty likely will fall to Erick Fedde or Austin Voth, who split the role with Ross in 2019.
The Nationals will be able to replace Zimmerman and Ross in their 60-man player pool. The team opens its summer camp Friday. Players must report to the team by Wednesday.
Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Mike Leake also opted out of the season Monday.
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