Jordan Zimmermann returns to the mound
Jordan Zimmermann hit another milestone today in his recovery from last August's ligament-replacement surgery when he threw off of a mound for the first time in seven months. Zimmermann threw 10 times from the mound's slope and 15 pitches from the rubber, tossing at roughly 50 percent of his capacity.
Or at least he tried to throw at 50 percent. Zimmermann, General Manager Mike Rizzo has said, is the kind of player the Nationals need to remind not to work too hard, to push his recovery too quickly. "The first one, I had to yell at him," pitching coach Steve McCatty said. "I told I had my bat and I was going to whack him."
Chien-Ming Wang also threw 45 pitches in his own bullpen session, and he was standing next to McCatty while Zimmermann threw that first pitch in seven months. "He looked at me and under his breath he goes, 'Gasss!' " McCatty said.
After Zimmermann finished, he stood by his locker as reporters approached. McCatty walked by and stared him.
"What?" Zimmermann asked.
"You know," McCatty said.
Zimmermann shrugged and furrowed his brow. "I was gonna hit you after that first one," McCatty sad.
"It was not too hard!" Zimmermann said.
McCatty lowered his gaze and walked away.
"I was trying to go easy," Zimmermann told the small group of reporters. "It was too hard for their liking."
Though Zimmermann has been playing catch and long toss for most of the spring, his first time back on the mound meant something to him. He has thrown up to 120 feet, but stepping back on the rubber felt different. He was curious about how he would locate his pitches.
"It's a pretty big deal, I guess," Zimmermann said. "I haven't stepped on a mound for seven months. It was nice to get back on a mound and start throwing again. I was interested where my first couple balls were going to go. It wasn't all over the place, so that's good."
Zimmermann threw a ball for the first time in late December, when he was rehabbing in Wisconsin with a personal therapist. Even then, the Nationals had to keep him in check.
"I'm sure he wanted to throw," McCatty said. "I talked to him this winter and he said he wanted to throw. He was up in a shanty somewhere up north. We had to hold him back. I'm sure he felt like he was capable of throwing harder."
Zimmermann will throw off the mound again Wednesday and then Friday. He still hopes to return late this season. The soonest a pitcher can return from Tommy John is one year, which would allow Zimmermann, if all goes his way, to throw out of the bullpen for the Nationals in September. In that year away, Zimmermann will have gained a new appreciation for what he can do when healthy.
"Growing up, you just pick up a ball and throw," Zimermmann said. "It's nice to be back out there."
March 22, 2010; 1:15 PM ET
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