Craig Heist, wtop.com
Viera, Fla.- Jordan Zimmermann was impressive in his first Spring Training start and Anthony Rendon hits a two-run homer as the Nationals played the Marlins to a 2-2 tie after 10 innings.
Zimmermann gave up one run on two innings and was much more pitch efficient than Stephen Strasburg was against the Mets on Saturday. Zimmermann threw 43 pitches, 23 for strikes and after breezing through the first two innings getting five of his six outs on ground balls, his only hiccup came in the third.
Zimmermann gave up a lead-off double to second baseman Chris Valaika. After walking Bryan Peterson, Chone Figgins sacrificed the runners to second and third. Chris Coghlan then brought home Valaika with a ground out.
“The first two innings I was throwing strikes and keeping the ball down and getting early contact,” Zimmermann said. “In the third inning, I fell behind and got into a 2-1 count and I thought I’d throw the change-up and maybe get him to roll over and then I threw a ball and ended up walking a guy. I was happy to get out of that with only the one run but overall, I thought it went pretty well.”
Zimmermann went 12-8 last season with a 2.94 ERA in 32 starts for the Nats and he has often been the victim of poor run support throughout his career.
“It’s just the way it is,” he said. “Every team has a guy like that and it’s just happened the last couple of years it’s been me so hopefully it changes this year.”
Zimmermann knows with the extended spring for everyone because of the World Baseball Classic, there is much more of an emphasis for players to take it slower and not get caught up in trying to impress and do too much and he is happy with where is after his first start.
“I feel good. I think the fastball is coming out good and the breaking balls have pretty good break on them and I am right where I need to be. That was a good outing for me and something I can build on. I’m not where I want to be yes but I’m getting there.”
Storen’s first outing
Nats reliever Drew Storen took a 2-1 lead into the ninth inning but failed to close the door on the Marlins. Storen gave up back-to-back base hits to put runners at first and third. Jake Jefferies then grounded out to second scoring the run to tie the game.
“He was getting his work in,” said manager Davey Johnson. “I thought he left a couple of balls up. He had good velocity but he left a couple of balls up. I don’t put much stock in it. These guys will be ready for opening day. I think he threw one breaking ball and his location was a little up early.”
Storen is coming off the game five loss to the Cardinals in the National League Divisional Series and in which he blew a two run lead, giving up four runs as the Nationals fell 9-7, costing them a trip to the NLCS.
Storen is trying to be more cautious this spring after having surgery to repair a bone spur in the elbow last year in Spring Training and for him this was a good start in hopes of not being too amped up and trying to overdo things.
“It felt good,” Stroen said. “I was just going out and getting my feet wet. Like I said, going out there trying not to get hurt, trying to tone it down a bit and be just be nice and free and easy. I wasn’t really maxing out. I was just a couple of gears down, trying to stay on top of the baseball and locate more than anything else. Coming out healthy is the main thing.”
The Nationals 2011 first round draft pick, Anthony Rendon hit a two-run, opposite field homer in the bottom of the 5th inning off Ryan Webb which gave the Nats a 2- 1 lead at the time.
Rendon played in just 43 games last season between rookie ball and making it to double-A Harrisburg. Along the way he dealt with a badly sprained ankle suffered in April. He hit three homers with Harrisburg and said the opposite field power doesn’t surprise him.
“I guess in the last year or so I have been able to tell I have some power to the right side,” Rendon said. “I know I finished up the season with Harrisburg and my home runs there were to right field so I guess my power to the right side is coming along.”
He is healthy heading into this spring and he knows that’s a big part of trying to become the player everyone thinks he will become.
“I feel good,” he said. ” I know we are only two days into it so it’s hard to judge but you have to get a feel for it. I am tracking balls and making sure I am seeing the ball right. Just make sure you are progressing and not going the other way.”
Gray following the Nats
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray was in town following the Nationals over the weekend.
He was in Port St. Lucie on Saturday to watch the Nats take on the Mets and he was on hand to throw out the first pitch before the Nats took on the Marlins at Space Coast Stadium.
“I’m here to see our great Nationals team,” Gray said in front of the Nationals dugout before the game. “You know it was such an exciting season last year and we have such high hopes for the coming year, especially with the additions they have made. It’s a great way to support the team and show people the team should be supported.”
Coming off a run to the playoffs last season and seeing attendance increase as the team got better, Gray believes it is very important for the city.
“It is from a civic spirit perspective,” he said. “I want to see increasingly large number numbers of people who live in the city support the team too. We always want the regional support because we are a regional team but at the same time we want people who live in the city to feel like this is a team that belongs to them.”
Gray also believes the commercial and retail development around Nationals Park is due to having the team there and he says there is more to come.
“For example, there is a movie theater that will come in down there. We’ve got more eateries that will come into the area. There will certainly be more people moving in and there will be more residential development down there as well.”
Gray also said there is a baseball academy for kids that will be finished sometime in the fall.
After playing the Mets Saturday, the Nats are headed back to Port St. Lucie on Monday night to take on the Mets at 6:10. Gio Gonzlaez will face Collin McHugh.