Washington Nationals veteran Ryan Zimmerman was the team's first draft selection when the franchise moved from Montreal to Washington, D.C. He has played for the club in every season since making his debut Sept. 1, 2005. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
June 29 (UPI) -- Washington Nationals veteran first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and starting pitcher Joe Ross are sitting out of the pandemic-delayed 2020 season "for the personal health and safety of themselves and their loved ones," the team announced Monday.
"We are one hundred percent supportive of their decision to not play this year," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said in a statement. "We will miss their presence in the clubhouse and their contributions on the field."
Zimmerman, 35, was the Nationals' first draft selection when the franchise relocated from Montreal to Washington, D.C. He has played for the club in every season since making his debut Sept. 1, 2005.
"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 in a statement. "Everyone knows how much it means to me to be part of a team, and I will miss that camaraderie dearly this year.
"Of course I would love to pursue back-to-back titles. 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 recorded a .257 batting average with six home runs and 27 RBIs in 52 games (171 at-bats) last season. He appeared in 16 postseason contests during the Nationals' run to their first championship in 2019 and had a key home run in Game 1 of the World Series.
The two-time All-Star selection was set to play on a one-year, $2 million contract this season after the Nationals declined to exercise an $18 million club option.
"To be clear, I am not retiring at this time," Zimmerman said Monday. "I have not decided on my future in baseball past 2020. But this year I'll be staying safe at home and pulling as hard as anyone for our guys to defend their championship."
Ross, 27, appeared in 27 games (nine starts) last season, posting a 4-4 record with a 5.48 ERA. The sixth-year veteran -- who underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in 2017 -- was expected to be the Nationals' fifth starter in 2020.
Zimmerman and Ross became the second and third MLB players to publicly opt out of the 2020 season Monday over concerns about the coronavirus, following Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Mike Leake.