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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.

By Chico Harlan  |  March 28, 2009; 10:23 AM ET
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Wow! If this don't get the juices flow'n not sure what will!

Be damn NL East here come the Nats!

Posted by: TippyCanoe | March 28, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Great move by the Nationals! I can't wait to see these kids pitch! Gotta keep it real and be patient for awhile, but by this time next season I think we'll be seeing Lannan as our No.4 starter and that's not too shabby at all!

Posted by: Keenan1 | March 28, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse

I think Zimmerman should be fourth and Martis fifth, based on what I saw in spring training, but that's probably splitting hairs, this is a good decision. And kudos to everyone in the organization for not putting Zimmermann down till late May to avoid the Super 2 status (as Baltimore has done with its most marketable talented player in ages, Wieters).

Posted by: raymitten | March 28, 2009 10:41 AM | Report abuse

SMarti and JZim pitched better IMO than everyone but Lannan.

As it appears, Lannan will get the job of facing the Johan Santanas and other teams aces and hopefully take the pressure off of JZim.

The best thing the team can do for Lannan this year is give him some run support.

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | March 28, 2009 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Gotta agree with Keenan. Assuming we have Strasburg (please) and Zimmermann develops, Lannan would probably be our third best (at best)...which isn't a knock on him, but a compliment to the other two. If they take another college arm #10, that could be another arm in the mix (but I doubt they'd be ready to start 2010 in Washington anyway).

I wouldn't be suprised if Lannan is the OD guy next year though, I don't think teams like to take that kind of thing away so quickly from a homegrown guy.

Posted by: AnonymousSources | March 28, 2009 10:57 AM | Report abuse

In re Martis: “Acta pulled out a copy of the spring statistics, suggesting that numbers proved the point.”

Small sample, yes: 1 for 19, 0 BB, 6K, 1R .222

Fri. 20
Milledge, CF
4 0 0 0 0 3 2 .282
Sun. 22
Milledge, CF
4 0 0 0 0 0 0 .256
Tues 24
Milledge, CF
3 1 1 0 0 2 0 .261
Wed. 25
Milledge, CF
5 0 0 0 0 1 3 .235
Fri. 27
Milledge, CF
3 0 0 0 0 0 0 .222

Lastings Milledge leads off (that whole setting the table business)! Ignites the offense, works the count, waits for his pitch, scores runs, avoids outs, has a sharp eye at the plate, draws walks, handles the bat well, has a great on-base percentage, and is aggressive on the base paths (once you are on the basepaths?).

Posted by: nova_g_man | March 28, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Just noticed that MLB Network will air a special on the 1961 season at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, March 31. Not sure whether those who were living here and following Washington baseball at the time (which I wasn't) will want to watch, but thought I'd point it out.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 28, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

And bunts skillfully.

Posted by: nova_g_man | March 28, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

MLB service time counts only time on the 25 man roster until September. So JZimmermann's time in the minors (while on the 40 man) isn't a factor.

Having said that, I'm glad to see the Nats giving him a chance early to prove to everyone that performance will be rewarded.

Posted by: deMille_Ondefloss | March 28, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Chico - Am I correct in assuming that Zimmermann was not placed on the 40-man? There is no reason to make such a move until they have to.

Posted by: Brian_ | March 28, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Agreed, TippyCanoe, this got my heart rate up a bit. So exciting and such a marked uptick from previous years.

And I want to add to the agreement with JayB on the best looking outfield. An order of Dunn, Dukes, Willingham, with Kearns and Harris on the side.

However, I also think you're wacked, JayB, for suggesting firing Manny.

Posted by: NatsNut | March 28, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

On paper the Nats still look like the 5th best team in the NL East, but there are still signs of progress. If the Nats can avoid the annual early losing streak they could break 75 wins this year. Before the season started last year I thought they could break 80 but that turned out to be way too much optimism. I'm predicting 76-86 this year. If Martis and Zimmermann can pitch as well as Lannan last year, then they could do even better, but thats alot to ask.

Posted by: natbisquit | March 28, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

All I am saying is that Acta will be fired at the end of the season if the team does not perform and his choice of giving Milledge the job of CF and Lead Off is likely going to be his undoing.

I agree with #4.....Very soon into the season, GM Rizzo will force Acta to change the Milledge decison if it does not work. Rizzo needs wins as much as Acta to keep the job.

Posted by: JayBeee | March 28, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

i like dukes in center also, but i'll give milledge another 500 at bats before deciding if he's a short timer.

from the sounds of it, he will be the new whipping boy. and based on last year and spring training so far he appears to be a slow starter.

i'm rooting for him though. and i won't boo anyone. i didn't boo bush when he threw out the first pitch, so i don't know how i could boo milledge.

Posted by: longterm | March 28, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

i like the pitching plan. and strasburg will fit in nicely going foward. but, of course, he would fit into anyone's staff rather easily.

Posted by: longterm | March 28, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

It is exciting to see how this young staff performs. Here's my tired refrain: Just make sure someone is watching their innings. The 22 year olds need a cap.

Posted by: Bazz | March 28, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

natbisquit - The NL East will be the best division in the NL and they get the lucky task of playing 3 vs. Boston, 3 vs. NYY and 3 vs. Tampa Bay which is probably amongst the toughest schedules this year.

The schedule won't be easy so given their strength of schedule I am thinking 73 wins this year and as Boz points out if the pitching holds up they could get to 81 wins so I hope Boz is right.

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | March 28, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

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