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Reporting For Duty... After Some Anxiety

One-and-a-half months ago, Jordan Zimmermann started to get a bit nervous. The Washington Nationals still hadn't called him, inviting him to big league camp. For all of his recent acclaim -- Baseball America named him the organization's top prospect; Washington gave him its minor league pitcher-of-the-year award for 2008 -- Zimmermann also has a background connected to more humble expectations.

Two years ago, for instance, he was busy pitching in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference -- "The wee-ack," Zimmermann said today -- for his D-III college, Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

"Well, I figured I'd be going" to big league camp," Zimmermann said. "And I was like, I should be getting a call, I should be getting a call -- just waiting, waiting, waiting."

Finally, weeks from camp, he called his agent.

"Hey, am I going to camp or not?" he asked.

His agent said he'd make a call. Ten minutes later, the Nationals called. Zimmermann's anxiety disappeared.

Now, the 22-year-old must confront the next hurdle -- earning a spot in the major league rotation. True, Zimmermann has never pitched beyond Class AA Harrisburg, where he went 7-2 with a 3.21 ERA last season. He's pitched only 38 minor league games since Washington drafted him in the second round of the 2007 amateur draft. But no matter. The Nationals will give Zimmermann every opportunity to earn the last spot in the rotation, even though they haven't told him so explicitly.

"I mean, I didn't come here just to get my feet wet," Zimmermann said. "I'm coming here to try to break with the team."

Zimmermann said he already feels a sense of belonging. The team's other pitchers are young enough that he sees them as peers. Just a few days ago, he joined John Lannan and Collin Balester for lunch.

"Myself being young, we kind of mesh together a little bit," Zimmermann said. "A lot of the guys are 24, 25, 26, so it's not like there are too many older guys here. It's a little easier for me to come in here and not be intimidated."

Some other nuggets...

This morning, several dozen Nats had to drive to a health care facility in Melbourne to have their physicals. Essentially, this is their last day with no obligated work-outs. Those start tomorrow morning. Many take this as a green light to enjoy their final day off before spring training really kicks into gear.

According to Acta, only one pitcher or catcher so far has failed to report -- Jorge Sosa, who is having visa problems. Sosa, who lives in the Dominican Republic, was signed by Washington this offseason to a minor league deal. There is one other matter that could be potentially interfering with matters. Sosa faces a Major League Baseball-imposed penalty after testing positive last season amphetamines use, and must serve a 50-game suspension.

By Chico Harlan  |  February 15, 2009; 2:26 PM ET
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IMO, JZimm got invited to get a feel for life in the majors; He'll get his real first-hand experience sometime between June-September, 2009.

Posted by: BinM | February 15, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse


Answering your questions from a few posts ago:

1. Keep all but Willingham, who I believe could be packaged with other players in a trade. Johnson, if etc., is valuable, but will not bring back much in a trade until he proves his health.

2. Best rotation would have Hill (if etc), Lannan, Cabrera, Olsen and Perez (with Zimmerman and Balester at the ready to come up).

3. Best option for 2nd base: Orlando Hudson

4. Lineup, free association style:


If they don't sign Hudson, put Anderson Hernandez 8, and move everybody else up one spot.


Posted by: kevincostello | February 15, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse


I can't see JimBow pulling the Hudson signing off, unless he already has a trade 'in the bag' for Belliard &/or others for a SP/RP/prospect deal. I like the "O-Dog" as a player, but I don't think that he'll end up with the Nationals.

Posted by: BinM | February 15, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Hudson's worth depends a lot on what kind of deal you can get him for. If we have to go more than 1 year then I don't think he's worth losing the top pick in the 2nd round for (likely no worse than #53).

If you believe in building through the draft is doesn't make sense to give up a key pick for a guy who's not going to be productive or around when you are planning on competing for a WS. Even one year might not be a good idea since MLBTR suggests he's unlikely to maintain his Type A status after next season.

Posted by: estuartj | February 15, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

From previous thread, but still relevant.


Regarding the rotation, let's compare 2008 to what's in camp for 2009.
2008: 1)Od.Perez, 2)Redding, 3)Lannan, 4)Bergmann, & 5)Balester, with Hill, MChico, & others in supporting roles.
2009: Olsen, Lannan, Cabrera, & Balester, with Hill, Bergmann, Od.Perez, JZimm & others.
In my mind, Olsen is a step-up from Odalis at #1, Lannan could fall prey at #2 to the 'sophomore slump', but I think he's better than that. Cabrera looks to be the equal to Redding at face value - let's see what St. Claire can do with him. Balester at #4 is another 'sophomore' - six weeks in Viera will prove whether or not he's going to come north. The #5 spot will resolve itself in Viera as well between Odalis, Hill, Bergmann or a "dark-horse" candidate.
All in all, I think the starting staff is looking much better than it did last year.

Posted by: BinM | February 15, 2009 3:20 PM

Posted by: BinM | February 15, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse


As a follow-up, I'd hope for the following minimum numbers from the '09 staff -
Olsen = 33GS, 200+IP, 1.35WHIP, 4.05 ERA.
Lannan = 32GS, 200IP, 1.46WHIP, 3.99 ERA.
Cabrera = 32GS, 195IP, 1.60WHIP, 4.70 ERA.
Balester = 22GS, 140IP, 1.75WHIP, 5.20 ERA.
Hill = 20GS, 130IP, 1.48WHIP, 4.40 ERA.
Others = 21GS, 135IP, 1.80+WHIP, 5.30 ERA.

Posted by: BinM | February 15, 2009 4:24 PM | Report abuse

If you run those numbers out for the full 160 starts you listed the starting rotation would give up 504 runs in about 1000 innings or about 6 and a third inning per start.

Posted by: estuartj | February 15, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Great read over at the times Chatter Blog.....Acta being Acta today.......lots of great quotes.......

Posted by: JayBeee | February 15, 2009 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Not being a stat geek/freak...take your pick...I think the starters last year averaged less than 6 IP per start. If they can get better than 6, closer to 7 on average, that would go a long ways in improving the bullpen. Knocking that down an inning a game, saving the pen 160 innings in a season would be a tremendous achievement.

Posted by: cokedispatch | February 15, 2009 5:47 PM | Report abuse

Thats probably quite unrealistic, come to think about it though. Heck, if they average 6 it might be good eneough, ya think.

Posted by: cokedispatch | February 15, 2009 5:48 PM | Report abuse

A 200 IP starter averages just over 6 innings a start. Expecting a 5 man rotation of 200 inning starters is a bit of a stretch.

Some stats to chew on as you pick your batting order:

2006-08: Adam Dunn

Batting 2nd: AB:166; BA: .313; OBP: .430; SLG: .620; OPS: 1.050

Batting 3rd: AB:159; BA: .233; OBP: .430; SLG: .472; OPS: .781

Batting 4th: AB: 408; BA: .223; OBP: .473; SLG: .473; OPS: .844

When I suggested batting him 2nd a couple of days ago, someone responded "He'll never bat 2nd and thank God for that." I don't understand this reasoning. His skills are better suited for the position, and he's obviously comfortable there. I still like:


It puts everyone in the best position to take advantage of what they can contribute.

As far as making a trade, I don't think they ought to. There are too many injury prove people on this roster, and just about any trade that is made would be a "sell low" situation. The only possibility MIGHT be Belliard. What's wrong with your 11 INF/OF being:


Hernandez needs to stay because they need a back up SS. This group gives them the chance of having 4 LH bats in the line up against RHP with a spare on the bench to pinch hit. Against LHP they could start 7 or even 8 RH batters if they play both Kearns and Willingahm. Would this line up and roster mean that guys would be doing things that "conventional wisdom" says they shouldn't or won't do. Maybe. But it's the best configuration for success.

As far as the pitching goes, who knows who will be healthy. It's such a crap shoot - and I don't mean just Hill and Chico. Let's throw all the pasta on the wall and see what sticks.


Posted by: db423 | February 15, 2009 6:26 PM | Report abuse

Oops. One mistake: Dunn's OBA was .371 batting 4th, not .473.


Posted by: db423 | February 15, 2009 6:29 PM | Report abuse

2nd mistake: His OBP was .309 batting 3rd, not .430. Sorry for my atrocious proof reading.


Posted by: db423 | February 15, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

I saw Sosa pitch (not very well) for the Dominican team in the Caribbean World Series. I seem to recall that he had better luck in the series last year.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 15, 2009 6:37 PM | Report abuse

I'm working on a new hitting stat, absolute total bases per plate appearance (ATB/TPA), but I need to find some more info. First, how would I get an average number of TPAs by line-up slot? Also, what is the average number of Total bases per run scored?

Posted by: estuartj | February 15, 2009 7:31 PM | Report abuse

new post

Posted by: estuartj | February 16, 2009 8:16 AM | Report abuse

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