Craig Heist, wtop.com
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Jordan Zimmermann turned in the best start by a Nationals pitcher this spring going six innings, allowing two hits and striking out two as the Nats beat the Mets 3-2 at Digital Domain Flied.
Zimmermann was making his second to last start before the season gets underway a week from today in Chicago against the Cubs and if today was any indication, Zimmermann is ready for it to begin.
Zimmermann worked fast, threw strikes and got quick outs. He got nine ground ball outs in his six innings.
"When I'm getting ground balls like that and keeping the defense in the ballgame is what I want to do," said Zimmermann. "When I'm working down in the zone, it's when I'm getting all the ground balls. If I start leaving the ball up, that's when you'll start seeing more fly balls and home runs but today I felt good and kept the ball down."
The right-hander lowered his spring ERA to 3.32 and after giving up four runs and eight hits last time out against the Astros, he was letter perfect today with a bit of a different game plan for this start than the previous ones.
"The other starts I was working on some stuff," he said. "I had a little talk with Cat (pitching Coach Steve McCatty) and he told me lets go after these hitters like you're going to go after them in the season, so that was the game plan."
Most pitchers like to follow that exact formula for their second to last outing of the spring and Zimmermann said he is close to being where he needs to be to start the season calling it, "pretty close right now and peaking at the right time."
His manager would agree.
"He was superb to say the least," Davey Johnson said. "He had a low pitch count and he started to get some pitches up in the sixth but he had the low pitch count and just an unbelievable outing. That's Zim, the guy you've come to know and love, right there."
Johnson took Zimmermann out of the game after six because Zimmermann complained of a blister on his foot.
Henry Rodriguez continues to have a spectacular spring for the Nationals. The hard-hard throwing right-hander had a 1-2-3 ninth inning and has not allowed a run in nine innings this spring. He, along with Brad Lidge will handle the closing duties while Drew Storen recovers from inflammation in his right elbow.
Xavier Nady gets a start and probably more
Xavier Nady, who signed a Minor League two weeks ago, got the start at first base today for the Nationals after GM Mike Rizzo said earlier that he had no plans on Nady playing games on the Major League side.
Nady went one-for-three with two strikeouts. He struck out swinging in his first at-bat in the second inning and was caught looking in the fourth. In his third at bat in the seventh, he hit a line drive single to center.
Johnson joked with him later in the dugout. "He was coming by the bat race and he said, boy, the pressure is on me. I couldn't come up here and not make contact. That would be the worst thing in the world."
It is no secret; Johnson likes guys who can hit the ball out of the ballpark. Nady hit a few out of the park during batting practice. With the injuries to Michael Morse and Adam LaRoche scheduled to start playing this week, Nady gives Johnson another option to look at the rest of the week so he will be sticking around.
"The type of hitter he was wasn't fresh in my mind but once I saw one round of BP, I knew where he was and I knew I wanted to see a lot of him before the end of the spring with us. So, I don't have plans for him to go back down there. He is going to stay up here with us."
Nady was sitting around the house waiting to latch on with a team. Nady wanted to sign with the Nationals but they had already agreed to a Minor-League deal with Mike Cameron. When Cameron retired, the Nationals didn't sign anyone but in a way, that opened the door for Nady.
He has also gone through Tommy John surgery twice in his career and has also had hand surgery after breaking the hand during an at-bat while with the Diamondbacks last year.