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.
“My goal was to stay in shape no matter however long it took to get a job wherever I was going to be,” Nady said. “I feel like I did a good job of that trying to stay pretty active and you never know whats going to happen.
“Obviously, with everything being this late, you got to expedite the process. It’s a different situation but my goal is to get ready and I’m excited I’m healthy. It’s been a grind to get healthy and I am certainly thankful for that and I’ll go from there.”
Desmond and Werth
Shortstop Ian Desmond went 4-for-4 with a run scored and is now hitting .302 for the spring.
Desmond was on his way to the stadium this morning when he realized he needs to ramp it up a bit.
“Today was a little bit of a reality check,” Desmond said. “We were on the bus watching TV and there was a real game on (Mariners and Athletics from Tokyo) and it was kind of like, okay, it’s here. So I kind of ask myself, are you ready? I was like, yea I’m ready to get out of here and get started.”
Desmond singled in his first two at-bats, doubled down the left field line in his third at-bat and then laid down a bunt beating it out for a base hit.
Desmond knows he and Danny Espinosa will be relied upon heavily to get on base at the top of the order and set the stage for the three-four and five hitters in the lineup.
Honestly, that’s the ideal thing to do,” he said. “Any baseball player is out there trying to be consistent and the superstars are. Obviously, you want to be consistent and get on base for those guys but it’s a grind and it’s about battling all year long.”
Jayson Werth 1-for-3 with a line drive home run off Jonathan Niese in the fourth inning, his fourth of the spring and after hitting .232 last year with 20 homers and 58 RBI, he is looking for a big, bounce back season.
“I feel good,” Werth said. “I felt good ever since I started hitting this winter and kept it simple. Fundamentally, I feel like I’m right and it’s just a matter of holding onto it for the next six months.”
Condolences to Roger
Nationals outfielder Roger Bernadina will miss two days to attend the funeral for his father who passed away. Davey Johnson was informed of the news three days ago and Bernadina’s mother informed her son the funeral would be Friday. Bernadina got at-bats on the Minor-League side today before taking a flight to the Netherlands.
Two for the price of one
The Nationals will play a split squad affair tomorrow with the team hosting the Braves at 1:05. Edwin Jackson will make the start for the Nats at Space Coast Stadium against LHP Mike Minor. The Nats will send rookie Mitch Adkins to the hill against the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland at 6:05. The Tigers are scheduled to start RHP Max Scherzer.