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Zimmerman and the Nats take down the Cardinals

Monday - 3/12/2012, 7:49pm  ET

Craig Heist, wtop.com

VIERA, Fla. - Ryan Zimmerman homered and doubled and Jesus Flores homered and drove in two runs to lead the Nationals to an 8-4 victory over the Cardinals at Space Coast Stadium.

Jordan Zimmermann pitched three and two-thirds innings in his second start of the spring and gave up four runs on seven hits including a first inning, three-run opposite field home run to Cardinals third baseman David Freese.

Zimmerman threw 59 pitches, 41 for strikes and despite the numbers he was happy overall with his outing.

"I felt better today than I did my last start," Zimmermann said. "My fast ball command was definitely there today, I felt like I could throw it wherever I wanted to. I threw a few good change-ups and there weren't a lot of hard hit balls, maybe a few bloopers and that's a good sign, not hitting the barrel."

Zimmermann knows one of the realities of pitching in spring training games in Florida is dealing with the wind. Many days at Space Coast Stadium, the wind blows out to the right and certainly was a factor on the Freese homer, which right-fielder Roger Bernadina kept going back on until he ran out of room.

"It was a fastball inside that somehow he got inside of and hit it the opposite way," he said. "It was inner-third and I just don't understand how he could hit it that way. The wind is howling pretty good today and I'm not going to say the wind pushed it out but it probably would have been a routine fly ball anywhere."

Zimmerman continues to be red hot

Ryan Zimmerman is hitting .583 this spring with two homers, three doubles and four RBI and while that is nice to talk about, Zimmerman prefers to look at it realistically.

"It was good to see some curve balls and breaking balls," he said. "That's obviously, the next week or week-and-a-half when most pitchers will start throwing all their pitches so we get to see more of those and really start to feel comfortable."

As for the success so far this spring, the third baseman says he's swinging the bat well.

"I feel good. I'm not going to lie. I'm comfortable and my body feels great and it's good to be getting hits. It's better than not getting hits."

Nats make first round of cuts

The Nationals made their first round of cuts after Monday's game and there were no surprises.

The Nationals optioned left-handed pitcher Matt Purke and infielder Anthony Rendon to Potomac of the Single-A Carolina League and optioned infielder Carlos Rivero to Triple-A Syracuse of the International League.

The Nationals also reassigned right-handed pitchers Austin Bibens-Dirkx and Rafael Martin, catcher Sandy Leon, infielder Jarrett Hoffpauir and outfielders Corey Brown and Xavier Paul to the minor-league camp.

Brown is expected to go to Syracuse. He came over from Oakland along with pitcher Henry Rodriguez in the trade that sent Josh Willingham to the Athletics two years ago.

As a September call-up last year, Brown appeared in just three games for the Nats last season, all as a pinch-hitter and went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. He then missed the rest of the season and had surgery for a staph infection in the knee.

Monday, Brown went 2-for-4 with two RBI before being sent down. He was hitting .412 with seven hits in 17 at-bats.

"This spring, he's been one of the most impressive players," said manager Davey Johnson. "I knew I was sending him out and I wanted to play him all nine innings today. He certainly had a great ball game."

"I told him to go down there and get a lot of at bats and carry what he's doing into the year. If he keeps doing the things I think he's capable of doing right on into this season, we don't have to look for a centerfielder."

"It's great to know that's how he feels about me and what they all think I can do," Brown said. "I just wanted to go out there and give it all I had. I was fortunate enough to have a couple of good games up here, they gave me opportunities and I just wanted to take advantage of that."

Matt Purke went 1-0 this spring with that win coming in Monday's game against the Cardinals. He pitched to an ERA of 2.70 in three and one-third innings.

Third baseman Anthony Rendon hit .231 this spring with one double and one RBI. Both Purke and Rendon are expected to start in Class-A and Johnson likes the high ceiling both players bring.

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