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The Face of the Washington Nationals' Franchise, Ryan Zimmerman, the team's first 1st Round pick, was on XM's Inside PItch this afternoon with regular host Kevin Kennedy and fill-in Mike Ferrin to discuss how things were going this Spring for both the Nats and their '09 No.1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg:
Kevin Kennedy: You got to the big leagues fairly quickly, as we all know, can you kind of relate what Stephen Strasburg's going through right now? I know it's a couple of outings and we've heard great things about him, but give us kinda your take, being on the inside...
Ryan Zimmerman: Well, I mean, he's gone through a ridiculous amount of pressure and it's almost unfair to him I think. He's been going through it for about a year and a half now already, and you know, he hasn't even been able to get one start in the big leagues before everyone's telling him he's going to do this and he's going to do that. He handles it very well, he's a very mature kid, he's humble, he works hard, he's quiet, and obviously his two outing here have been spectacular, and it's very rare that you have a guy with this much hype and he actually lives up to it, so it's been fun to sit back and watch him kind of deal with it and go through it and he's done a great job with it...
Mike Ferrin: It seems like more so his demeanor than his ability has endeared himself to the veteran players on the Nationals' team, the fact that like you said, he's humble, that he really goes about his work and that his work ethic is second to none?
Ryan Zimmerman: Yeah, he's great. And as talented as he is, his make-up and what you guys said, his demeanor are gonna make him a better player, or make him the best player that he can be. You know, he's had numerous chances to say the wrong things, to do the wrong things, and obviously hasn't done any of that yet. He's just a great kid that works hard, loves to pitch, loves to play baseball and that's all you can ask for...
Kevin Kennedy: "How do you, as a super hitter yourself, evaluate his stuff? Have you seen in him live BP or maybe even an intersquad game?"
Ryan Zimmerman: "I did not get to see him in any of that, but the last couple starts, obviously watching him, I think, you know the ball explodes out of his hand, he's very quick to the plate, so that kinda gets the hitters as well, but you know, he can throw any pitch for a strike at any time. I mean, he's got 95-96 and up in the tank, but he's thrown a couple 2-1 sliders, 3-2 curve balls, and things like that that are well beyond his years, and he's already knows (how to pitch) a little bit, so once he learns from Pudge [Rodriguez] and those guys, it's gonna be kinda scary what he can do."
Mike Ferrin: "You know we talk about Strasburg as being a bright hope for the franchise, but obviously, you're a huge part of that. We saw some of it last year with a guy like Jordan Zimmerman coming along, there are guys that are starting to get more playing time, like Ian Desmond and you're going to hear names like Chris Marrero coming along, when you look at where this franchise is now, compared to where it was, say, two Springs ago, how encouraged are you that you are heading in the right direction?"
Ryan Zimmerman: "I think it's very encouraging, I think Mike Rizzo and Stan [Kasten] have done a great job of building the club we have, and you know, it's tough when you start out a new franchise that's been down, and the hardest part is to stockpiling the farm system, and that takes years to do, and I think finally we're starting to see some of those guys come up and see what they've done with how they've drafted and how they've developed this talent, and it's fun for us, because they're young guys that are going to be with us a long time and make an impact and obviously as like you guys said, they're very talented and fun to play with so it's exciting for us, we've come along way and this year is going to be the first year of finally hopefully kind of getting through that hump and then in the very near future we're going to be that team that is a playoff contender every year so it's exciting for us."
Kevin Kennedy: I mentioned earlier you came up through the system pretty fast when you signed in '05 as a no.1 pick in your own right, are the minor leagues a necessity in your own mind? Did that help you? Or you think you could've gone right to the big leagues?
Ryan Zimmerman: My take on it, I think experience and talent is the most underrated thing, I mean, if you're talented and you can play baseball, baseball up here is no different than baseball in Single-A or Double-A or anything, the hardest part is the mental part of the game up here. I think obviously when you're young, and if you're a top pick, you've hit .400 everywhere, you've never really struggled, you've been 'the guy' everywhere, and then it's just a matter of whether you can come up to this level and deal with failure. I think some people get so caught up with it that they don't realize that it's normal to hit .280 in the big leagues, and that's really good...they're used to hitting .400 and not getting out for a week straight, and things like that, so the biggest thing is just to make sure the kid's ready mentally. I think talent's going to produce anywhere, so that's the thing...(inaudible)...(you have to be careful with) rushing someone to fast who can't handle that part of the game."
• Update: (ed. note - "A little out of order, cause I separated the Strasburg talk...but...")
Kevin Kennedy: "Hey, Ryan, we know you're a guy that plays just about every single day, you played in 157 last year and I know you're hitting really well this Spring...How many at bats does you need before you feel like you're ready?
Ryan Zimmerman: "Me? I'm like 40 to 50 at bats. So, I mean it's different for everyone, I think some people like a hundred, some people like to play every single day, but for me I play a couple games in a row, take a day off or so, and about the last week you kind of start playing every day just to get your body in that mindset and ready to go and then you kinda go from there."
Mike Ferrin: Is the toughest for you getting your timing back or getting physically ready to play every day?
Ryan Zimmerman: Well I think it's the timing, I think baseball''s just like any sport now, there's really no offseason, I think everyone works out all through the offseason, so physically you're ready to go, but I think as far as getting your timing down and seeing off-speed pitches and things like that again is the toughest part of getting back into it."
Kevin Kennedy: "We definitely want to talk to you about Stephen Strasburg, but the first thing I want to ask you before that is, is there anything that Jim Riggleman's trying to stress, is there any one thing this Spring that he saw as a bench coach last season that he really wants to stress with you guys?
Ryan Zimmerman: "Well, he's big into the little things, which is important in baseball. Like obviously, you have to play good defense; you make good base running decisions, take an extra base that'll get you extra runs, you can't give up stupid bases to the other team, you can't make errors, things like that...(inaudible)...so he's into little things, doing all those things right and hopefully that'll translate into more wins..."
Mike Ferrin: "Ryan, I know that this off season had to be exciting for you guys, the excitement of Strasburg coming to camp, lots of additions to the organizations, especially on the pitching side, and then it has been a struggle so far for you guys on the field, and I know you probably don't like talking about an 0-10 start, but can you get frustrated with these results in Spring Training, knowing you've guys have a better product on the field?"
Ryan Zimmerman: "Yeah, I mean it's never fun to lose, obviously, but Spring Training is a totally different ballgame, I mean, I think the last five or six games where a bunch of our guys have been in and you come out around the fifth or sixth inning, you either left with the lead or left tied, or within a run. So you look at it at that way, and you know, all the reporters down here asked me, and I said, if we started off 10-0 would we be World Series favorites? I mean, at the same time if you look at it that way, you can kinda...you know, there's people down here that, in the end, might not be with us up in DC or, you know, some guys, just two get two days off and you bring a minor league guy up to throw, and you know, there's just so many x-factors down here, but we feel confident in the team that we have, and we can't wait to get everyone on the field and start playing together in you know, the last week, week-and-a-half here...
Mike Ferrin: "How long did it take you to adjust to that, cause you mentioned, you were one of those guys who hit .400 everywhere, how long did it take you to adjust to that, to getting used to the struggles of major league life?"
Ryan Zimmerman: "In the first part of my Double-A season season that year, ('05) when they put me up in Double-A I struggled a bit and I just talked to the coaches or the older guys, and they say it's a long season, I mean you have six months. Something that Adam Dunn has taught me, he splits the season up into pretty much 3 or 4 mini-seasons, and you're going to have 150 at bats where you hit .240 and then you're going to have 150 at bats where you hit .320, so you can't really get too caught up in what you're doing on a day to day or week to week basis even, you just kinda gotta, deal with the umps and hopefully you'll have more high points than low points and try and be as consistent as you can be."
Mike Ferris: "Adam Dunn is a free agent following this season, have you talked to him about trying to ramp up those contract extension talks? I know the Nationals have maybe started to discuss those possibly with him?
Ryan Zimmerman: "If I was the GM or anything, I'd already have an extension in place for him, but uh..."
Mike Ferris: "Well, you can give him back some of your sheckles, right?"
Ryan Zimmerman: "Shoot, I'd happily give some of it away...but, uh, I mean, I think he's one of the more underrated players in the game, people don't realize, you know, it's tough for 5-6 seasons-in-a-row to go 40 and a hundred and not to mention he walks a hundred times and he's on base and, I mean people don't realize what kind of player that is to just plug into the middle of a lineup. I think to have him here, I've learned from him, obviously hitting-wise, and having him behind me helps a ton, so it would be a big, big part of our plan here and what we're doing here to get him here for a few more years."