Jordan Zimmermann, Jason Marquis and the cavalry are coming
After the All-Star break, the Nationals envision having "some hard, fun decisions to make" about their starting pitching rotation, General Manager Mike Rizzo said. By the middle of August, if all goes well, the Nationals could have four new options available, and two of them visited Nationals Park today.
Jordan Zimmermann, recovering from ligament-replacement surgery he underwent last August, threw a simulated game on the Nationals Park mound this afternoon. While Zimmermann threw 35 pitches over two "innings," Jason Marquis played catch in the outfield in his first appearance in Washington since he underwent surgery in mid-May to remove bone chips from his elbow.
The Nationals expect Zimmermann, whose recovery has been flawless, to return to majors between Aug. 1 and Aug. 15, Rizzo said. When he does return, Manager Jim Riggleman said, he will be a starter. Marquis is scheduled to return to the Nationals by roughly Aug. 1. Coupled with Chien-Ming Wang and Scott Olsen, both of whom the Nationals hope will return by mid-to-late July, the Nationals could have a pitching staff virtually entirely from the one they have now.
The most promising development has been Zimmermann's spotless rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery, which cut short his stellar rookie season. Zimmermann has hit 94 miles per hour while throwing in games at extended spring training in Viera, Fla., and has been ahead of schedule.
"It feels great," Zimmermann said. "Everything is going perfect right now. I was expecting to have some sort of setback, but I haven't had anything yet. Hopefully I won't have anything. We'll see how it goes."
This afternoon, Zimmermann came to Washington because Nationals officials wanted to watch him up and close and wanted to give him a respite from the monotony and heat of Viera. He warmed up and threw a simulated inning as Wil Nieves and Willie Harris stood in the batter's box. Zimmermann walked off the mound and sat in the dugout to approximate the time between innings, then walked back to the mound and threw another "inning."
"He looked good," Harris said. "He was Jordan Zimmermann, man. He was nasty. Live arm. Breaking pitches were good. He's way of ahead of schedule. It shows how hungry he is."
The Nationals also wanted to get an up-close look at Marquis. He is not as advanced as Zimmermann in what he can do, but since his operation requires far less rehab he will likely return first. Marquis has worked out at home in New York, the Nationals allowing him to rehab close to his family. Marquis went out of his way to thank the Nationals for the courtesy.
"This organization has been top-notch, phenomenal," Marquis said. "Putting the trust in me to do my work and get back strong and quick and still be around my family, with a smile on my face."
Marquis has been rehabbing five days per week, working on his shoulder and core strength as well as his elbow. "It's getting better and better," Marquis said. "No setbacks."
On Thursday, he will visit with Dr. Tim Kremchek, the specialist who performed his surgery. Afterward, with a concrete plan in place, Marquis will report to Viera and start making his way back to the majors.
The returns of Zimmermann and Marquis will give the Nationals, they hope, a two-month preview of what their 2011 rotation could be. When Zimmermann returns, especially, the Nationals will have a preview of a bright future. Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg will give the Nationals an elite duo of fireballing young starters.
"When you give yourself an opportunity to think about the future with two young, power arms like that in there, it's encouraging," Riggleman said. "It's something to certainly look forward to."
June 18, 2010; 6:50 PM ET
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