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The Special, Electric And Great Jordan Zimmermann

This spring, Jordan Zimmermann has thrown five innings -- just enough time to make a strong impression, and still not enough time to find a major league hitter who can reach base against him. This afternoon, Zimmermann, Washington's top-rated minor league prospect, enhanced his chances to make the opening day rotation with three more perfect innings in a 6-4 win against the New York Mets.

His line through two spring training appearances: five innings, no hits, six strikeouts, no walks.

Manager Manny Acta, after the game, spoke of Zimmermann's "electric" four-pitch repertoire. Pitching coach Randy St. Claire spoke of Zimmerman's "great" arm and "great" mechanics and, yes, "great" feel for pitching.

Provided all other starting pitchers remain healthy, Zimmermann is competing with fellow 22-year-old Collin Balester for a final rotation job. After Zimmermann's flawless three against the Mets, Balester answered with an uneven performance: Two scoreless innings, with a four-run hiccup -- the result of two home runs -- wedged in between. Balester said later that he just made a few mistakes, fastballs that stayed high. Zimmermann, for his part, is still waiting to make a mistake.

"Just one-two-three and I was out of there," Zimmermann said.

The Nationals, naturally, won't decide whether he makes this team -- or whether to retire his number -- until they've seen more. But already, the coaching staff has taken note of Zimmermann's unruffled demeanor.

"He's got to come in here and compete," St. Claire said. "So you've got that mental aspect that's going on, too. How does he handle that? How does he handle competing for a job? Is he going harder and harder like a lot of young kids do -- which I think a lot of our bullpen members are doing right now. They're trying to make the team. They're trying too much... Zimmermann, you don't see that. He's just going out and pitching. He's just concerned about his pitches and his execution. And he executes everything. He's special."

By Chico Harlan  |  March 4, 2009; 4:54 PM ET
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This is so sweet. I never knew what it was like to fall for a minor-league prospect. I'm looking forward to Jordan Zimmermann failing and smashing my heart into a million tiny pieces. That is, in fact, his job. Then I will be complete as a baseball fan.

Posted by: Scooter_ | March 4, 2009 5:12 PM | Report abuse

sounds like they're saying a lot of the same things about zimmermann that they say about lannan's mental makeup. and that's a good thing.

Posted by: sec231 | March 4, 2009 5:14 PM | Report abuse

Zimmermann is so awesome! :)

Posted by: rachel216 | March 4, 2009 5:20 PM | Report abuse

He's dreamy!!! Zimmermann IS Walter Johnson!! Only 300 more wins till the HoF!

Posted by: Highway295Revisited | March 4, 2009 5:25 PM | Report abuse

... thanx for this Chico. Why, it seems like only last thread I asked for this very thing ... and now here it is. This is great; ST is Great; BASEBALL is GREAT! (Now where have I heard that before?)

Posted by: natscanreduxit | March 4, 2009 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Ok ok ok hate to be the heartbreaker here but... I will be.

He has 5 Spring Training Innings, 5.

If everybody allows themselves to believe he is going to do this all of the time then the times he doesnt he will be crucified. Allow the kid to throw and be pleased with his performance and progress but wait until he falls and see how he recovers before you annoint him the second coming. That being said, so far, so good. Keep it up kid!

Posted by: Anatsphan | March 4, 2009 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Just need to throw a little look at reality on this "love-fest". JZimm's numbers look great so far, but let's see where he is in mid-March, after the first couple of roster trims take place. If he's still posting the same kind of numbers at that point, then we can make a place for him on the 25-man; until then, I for one am holding back.

Posted by: BinM | March 4, 2009 5:46 PM | Report abuse

At the dentist this afternoon I scheduled an appointment for my next cleaning, I'm set up for August 27 at 2:30, just in time to turn on the beginning of the Nats @ Cubs on the TV in their ceiling.

My co-workers think I have a problem...

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | March 4, 2009 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the quotes, Chico. Attaboy, JZimm.

Confidential to jca, from a few posts back: I believe that Al Dente is a noodle-armed catcher.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 4, 2009 5:51 PM | Report abuse


I have a substantive question: if Bally* and Zimmermann Jr. both pitch well this spring, has there been any talk of moving the one who doesn't make the starting rotation to the pen? Given how depleted the pen is, why not bring one of them along as a long relief guy out there?

Posted by: wahoo2x | March 4, 2009 6:21 PM | Report abuse

Hey just wanted to let people know about a Nationals message board that has been around for a year and looking to grow into a big Washington Nationals community!

Posted by: ExtremeNatscom | March 4, 2009 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Hi wahoo2x,

... that seems rather counterproductive to me. Both kids look to have good (tending to very good) careers as starters. I wouldn't want to be the one to nip either of those in the buds.

Posted by: natscanreduxit | March 4, 2009 6:58 PM | Report abuse

I'm not Chico, but I'll take a stab at your question - The current starting five, in alphabetical order looks like: Balester, Cabrera, Hill, Lannan, Olsen. The other five currently in the 'rotation' (Chacin, Clippard, Detwiler, Martis & JZimmermann) are all still in the mix for either a starting slot or a LR-role in the big clubs' bullpen. The next couple of weeks will help sort some of the wheat from the chaff, imo.

Posted by: BinM | March 4, 2009 7:04 PM | Report abuse

Rather than predicting any portion of the 25-man roster that goes north from Viera, I'd rather know whether St. Claire is working with the in-camp pitchers that have not appeared in a ST game (Brownlie, Jones, Larrison, Martin & Towers).
Are they all throwing regular BP sessions? Why haven't they had any appearances to-date? If they aren't going to be a part of early ST games, why did they get STI'ed?

Posted by: BinM | March 4, 2009 7:13 PM | Report abuse

... right you are BinM re; news from ST. I want to know those same things.

... and I want to know from Rick Ecks which guys are showing some thump, which ones are in need of cork, which ones will carry on regardless. And I want to know from Gus if we're going to see doubles turned into triples, if we'll see a rush of SBs, if he's had any success getting Dmitri to first.

... I want to know it all ... if possible.

Posted by: natscanreduxit | March 4, 2009 7:24 PM | Report abuse

Hey, so we're clear: I can't speak for anyone else, but *I'm* not in love with Zimmermann because of 5 innings in the spring. I'm in love with him because I saw him on TV last summer, and I looked at his stats from last year. So we didn't just pass in the hall; he actually sat across from me at lunch.

As to moving a young starter to the bullpen, that's not nipping anything in the bud. Plenty of terrific starting pitchers have begun their careers relieving, or relieving and spot starting. (Jim Palmer, Pedro Martinez, Johan Santana are a few I found in a minute of searching.)

Posted by: Scooter_ | March 4, 2009 7:28 PM | Report abuse

I echo the calls that while this is exciting, we should let JZimm take things slow and not get ahead of ourselves here. Anyone who wants a point of reference need only look at Ian Kennedy's Age 22 minor league stat line from 2007, which was clearly superior to Jordan's stats from last year in pretty much every respect:

Things didn't exactly work out for Ian and the Yanks last year. Just give Jordan time, and patience. He doesn't need unrealistic expectations heaped on him as a result of our desperation for real prospects.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | March 4, 2009 7:33 PM | Report abuse

JZ, JZim, ZMann, Zim Reaper, let's hope this is the positive surprise every team wishes for before the season!!!!

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | March 4, 2009 7:36 PM | Report abuse

... thanx Scooter. That particular aspect of major league pitching is something I didn't know. I hope I'm man enough to admit I was wrong, and old enough to learn something new.

Posted by: natscanreduxit | March 4, 2009 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Good references all, but pitchers who by-and-large, served that role only in a late-season call-up; after the next ST, they were all in the starting five of their respective teams.
I think the point being made here is that a team (particularly the Nationals)wouldn't want to 'pre-emptively' label a starting pitcher as primarily a bullpen pitcher. I'd rather see a rotation prospect sent to the minors for consistent work, than to see him carried as a long-reliever on the big club.
Major League LR & MR bullpen slots are filled with pitchers who have either the stuff or the smarts to get through an opposing line-up once, but not twice.

Posted by: BinM | March 4, 2009 7:57 PM | Report abuse

But did he pass you a note, Scooter? That's the most important sign.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 4, 2009 8:10 PM | Report abuse

I think we need to start him in AAA for at least a couple of months like the Rays did last year with Longoria. We don't want to start the MLB service time clock on him too soon.

Also, I'd like to see them take their time. I like what the team has done this off season, but it is still not a playoff team. Let him and Martis get some more seasoning before bringing them to the show.

Posted by: NatsWin | March 4, 2009 8:15 PM | Report abuse

In Nationals' WBC news, we have the following:
Adam Dunn (USA): started at 1B - 1 for 3, 1RBI, 1HBP.
Pete Orr (CAN): started at SS - 0 for 1, 1RS, 1BB; 2DP's turned on defense.
Joel Hanrahan (USA): 1IP, 2H, 1ER, 1BB, 1WP, 1K, 1 Hold.
Saul Rivera (PR): night game, no results.

Posted by: BinM | March 4, 2009 8:30 PM | Report abuse

ORRRRRRRRR!! Sorry. Peer pressure, I guess.

Also, new post.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 4, 2009 8:31 PM | Report abuse

actually, BinM, at one time it was pretty common for a pitcher to break in as a reliever and move into the starting role. it's only been the last 20 years or so it's become uncommon (kinda like QBs and clipboards). more recently, a couple of other very good pitchers did the same thing successfully. joba chamberlain and francisco liriano. maybe kennedy would have been more successful if he'd broken in the way joba did.

Posted by: sec231 | March 4, 2009 8:40 PM | Report abuse

Now that I've seen Zimnn pitch twice the best thing I like is how fast he works. Gets the ball and throws no wasted figits. He just stays in a quick rhythm. I can see many 2-21/2 hour games this year if he's in the rotation.

Posted by: tomfoc31 | March 4, 2009 9:37 PM | Report abuse

So JZim looks long until we can pencil him in for surgery on the nerves in his throwing forearm a la Patterson and Hill. Paging Dr. Andrews...

Posted by: cheeseburger53 | March 4, 2009 10:00 PM | Report abuse

>Just need to throw a little look at reality on this "love-fest". JZimm's numbers look great so far, but let's see where he is in mid-March, after the first couple of roster trims take place.

Got very little to do with that - the pitching is always far ahead of the hitting this time of year, no matter who is at the plate.

Posted by: Brue | March 5, 2009 8:37 AM | Report abuse

>Now that I've seen Zimnn pitch twice the best thing I like is how fast he works.

So what kind of stuff does he have? Have you seen any offspeed stuff yet?

Posted by: Brue | March 5, 2009 8:39 AM | Report abuse

Natsfan1a1 - what a great sport for phrases like "noodle armed."

Wahoo2x - They may have long men already in Bergmann and Young. I think they are likely to want to keep Balester stretched out, use him in Syracuse's rotation, and have available for a call up if a pitcher is DL'd. He's a good enough young player (not considered a prospect b/c he's passed his rookie status) to give him more time to see if he can start. And, of course, he can still make the rotation if he pitches well here on out. He may even overtake JZ if they end up being close simply to let JZ work in AAA for a month and a half, both to consolidate his development and to defer arbitration.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | March 5, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

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