WASHINGTON — The defending World Champion Washington Nationals will be without the services of 1B Ryan Zimmerman and SP Joe Ross this season. Both Nationals have opted to not play the truncated 2020 season due to COVID-19 and their discomfort with all of the health risks posed to players and team staff during Major League Baseball’s attempt to play through a global pandemic.

“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 released by the club on Monday afternoon. “We are 100 percent supportive of their decision to not play this year. We will miss their presence in the clubhouse and their contributions on the field.”

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In an official statement, through his agency CAA, Zimmerman said Monday “After a 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 to not participate in the 2020 season. 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.”

Ryan Zimmerman’s mother is high risk due to multiple sclerosis and leading him to have previously expressed possible doubt about playing this season. The Nats’ veteran said just last week “I have a 3-week old baby [and] my mother has multiple sclerosis and is super high risk. If I end up playing I can pretty much throw out the idea of seeing her until weeks after the season is over.” He went on to admit “There’s a lot of factors that I and others have to consider. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer; it’s everybody’s individual choice. At the end of the day, does a player feel comfortable going to the field every day and, in my case, more importantly, feel comfortable coming home every day and feel like they’re not putting anyone else in danger?”

While Zimmerman is sitting out, what may or may not have been his last season, Joe Ross is only 27 and was set to take on a bigger role in the pitching staff. He was expected to compete for the 5th spot in the starting rotation with Austin Voth and Erick Fedde. Both of Ross’ parents are in the medical field, his father is a pediatrician and his mother is an ER nurse, which may have contributed to his decision.

When Major League Baseball announced plans last week to impose a 60-game season, players were given the right to opt out. Only those players deemed “high-risk” to contract COVID-19 and potentially suffer serious effects from the disease were guaranteed their full prorated salary and service time for this season. Others who opt out, like Zimmerman and Ross, risk losing their salary and service time accrual, but teams are permitted to pay them if they choose. Due to this, it is expected that the Nationals will push both Zimmerman and Ross’ contracts to next season (2021) as neither will receive service time nor prorated pay for this season.

Nationals’ abbreviated training camp is set to start at Nationals Park on Friday July 3 and they are set to face the New York Yankees when the regular season begins. This will mark the beginning of the first season in 16 years that Ryan Zimmerman does not play in a Major League game for the Washington Nationals.

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