More On Martis, Zimmermann
Last summer, Jordan Zimmermann and Shairon Martis were teammates at Class AA Harrisburg. They lived on the same street with their host families. Sometimes, Zimmermann would drive Martis to the ballpark.
This spring, Zimmermann and Martis again have moved forward together. The Nationals today named Martis as their fourth starter, Zimmermann as their fifth starter. The decision gives the Nationals one of baseball's youngest rotations. None of the five are older than 27. The two who earned the final jobs, by the time the season begins, will both be 22.
Martis and Zimmermann won a three-candidate derby for the rotation's final spots; the other potential starter, Collin Balester, also 22, was optioned to Class AAA Syracuse. This spring, Martis and Zimmermann were perhaps Washington's top two pitchers. Zimmermann has a 3.14 ERA in 14-1/3 innings; he has walked two and struck out 20. Martis has allowed just three runs in 19 innings.
"That alone makes it exciting," Manager Manny Acta said, "but what makes it more exciting is that they are young guys under 25 years old from our system that are not guys that we had to run a tryout camp for like we did the last two years -- guys that came from six-year free agency, veteran guys. That's what makes it interesting. Whether these guys are going to do it or not, I mean, we're going to see. But I'm excited to have five guys that are 27 or younger, throwing them out there every five days. I think I can live with that, and if these guys come together -- hopefully being at least as realistic as I don't like to be -- and three of them are the real deal, then you've got yourself a good rotation for a long time here."
Entering camp, Zimmermann and Martis had decidedly different profiles. Zimmermann had just been named by Baseball America as the organization's top prospect. For months, those in the Washington front office gushed about his potential. Martis, a September call-up in 2008, was almost lost in Zimmermann's shadow. Acquired from the Giants in a 2006 trade for Mike Stanton, Martis decided this spring to skip the WBC, where he could have represented the Netherlands. The decision paid dividends.
"Absolutely," Martis said. "If I was there in the Classic, I wouldn't have had so many starts, so they don't know what I've got."
Asked why he had chosen Martis as the fourth starter over Zimmermann, Acta pulled out a copy of the spring statistics, suggesting that numbers proved the point.
"I think he has gotten the less publicity and the less hoopla, but I think Shairon Martis has pitched better than anybody in camp," Acta said. "I think the numbers are there. He has had a tremendous camp. He laid low in the weeds, and while everybody was talking about a few guys, he just continued to pound the strike zone and put zeros on the board. He earned it."
To get the two youngsters on track for their spots in the rotation, Martis will start Tuesday's game against the Tigers in Lakeland, Fla. That same day, Zimmermann will throw a 40-pitch simulated game. Zimmermann will begin the season in the minors, because the Nationals will start the first two weeks with a four-man rotation. On April 19, Zimmermann will be recalled. Though Class AAA Syracuse is his most likely destination for the interim, lousy weather could prompt the team to have Zimmermann pitch in Class A instead.
March 28, 2009; 10:23 AM ET
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