The last pitch Jordan Zimmermann threw on July 18, 2009 was a first pitch slider that was hit out of Nationals Park for a 3-run blast by Alfonso Soriano that put the Chicago Cubs ahead 5-4 in a game that would end up a 6-5 Cubs' win. Less than a month later, following a promising rehab start, DC GM Mike Rizzo would meet with the press to announce, as Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell reported at the time in an article entitled, "Zimmermann Will Miss 18 Months", that the then-23-year-old right-hander, the top pitching prospect in the Nats' organization, would undergo Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right elbow in spite of the fact that, as Mr. Boswell wrote that, "Rizzo said he felt that the Nationals had used a "very conservative plan" with Zimmermann."
A little over a year after having undergone the operation, Zimmermann returns to the mound tonight in Nationals Park, trying to stop a four-game Nats' losing streak on the same day the Nats' 2009 no.1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg undergoes a second MRI on his right arm and and the Nationals introduce their 2010 1st Round pick Bryce Harper to the nation's capital. Before Zimmermann's return and before the news on the last two no.1 overall picks, I decided to take a look back at the right-hander's MLB debut on April 20, 2009. A report from the Federal Baseball.com archives after the JUMP...
April 20, 2009: Jordan Zimmermann's MLB debut with the Washington Nationals ended over five hours after it was originally scheduled to start with the 22-year-old right-hander earning his first major league win in the 3-2 DC victory over Atlanta.
After rain delayed the start of Monday night's game for over two hours, Zimmermann took the mound in Nationals Park just after nine o'clock and matched Braves' starter Derek Lowe with three scoreless frames before giving up a leadoff triple to Chipper Jones in the fourth and making his first big mistake of the night, (with two down, mind you), on an 0-2 fastball to Matt Diaz which ended up high in the zone and then over the wall in left center for a two-run blast and a 2-0 Braves' lead.
The Nationals' offense picked Zimmermann up in the home half of the fourth, however, with Elijah Dukes and Jesus Flores both knocking in runs, and Washington took the lead two innings later after Zimmermann had retired the Braves in the fifth and sixth and Flores had knocked in Eljah Dukes for the go-ahead run in the bottom of the frame. The Nationals brought out reliever Kip Wells, who pitched a scoreless seventh, and left-hander Joe Beimel, who had recorded two outs in the eighth when the rain clouds returned...
...Just before midnight, the teams were back on the field, and DC reliever Garrett Mock needed just two pitches to record the final out of the Braves' eighth. When Washington failed to add to the lead, the Nationals sent closer "Wild" Joel Hanrahan out to the hill in the top of the ninth, in spite of the fact that he'd blown two-straight save opportunities this past weekend against the Marlins, and Hanrahan rewarded the Nationals' faith by quickly and effectively (with the exception of a one-out walk) dispatching the Atlanta Braves' batters to close out Jordan Zimmermann's first major league "W".
Jordan Zimmermann - (W, 1-0), 3.00 ERA, 6.0 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 HR, 1 BB, 3 K's, 71 Pitchers, 51 Strikes, 9 GO, 5 FO.
The Nationals' #1 Prospect...
ESPN.com's Keith Law described Jordan Zimmermann as a "classic four-pitch pitcher" when he listed the Nationals' '07 2nd Round draft pick as the 42nd best prospect in baseball on Mr. Law's "Top 100 Prospects" list for 2009, and the ESPN.com analyst pointed to Zimmermann's "plus command" of his "90-94 mph four-seamer", "mid-80's slider", tight curve and change, as the reasons for his inclusion on the list.
Most impressive tonight was Zimmermann's fastball which he dialed up a few times, hitting 95 and even 96 mph on the radar gun throughout the evening, coming up and inside to several hitters who couldn't catch up and were often chasing it out of the zone, and when he followed the fastball with a slider 7-10 miles slower, and a curve which he struggled to locate, but used to get one particularly memorable K from Larry "Chipper" Jones, Zimmermann looked every bit the part of a major league pitcher.
MLB.com's Bill Ladson stayed up all night to report on the win, and Mr. Ladson quoted DC catcher Jesus Flores who said that Zimmermann, "...has tremendous command with his pitches (and) threw the ball very well today." DC Manager Manny Acta is quoted in the article praising the debuting starter's efforts especially in consideration of the fact that, "...this was not the nicest day to play baseball."
Washington Times' writer Mark Zuckerman's article entitled, "Zimmermann picks up first big-league win", quoted the victorious 22-year-old pitcher who said, "I couldn't ask for a better start...I mean getting the win, pitching against the Braves...just a great day." Mr. Zuckerman points to the DC Manager Manny Acta's long held belief in, "letting a young starter depart on a high note" as the reasoning behind lifting Zimmermann after he'd completed the sixth, and the Manager's move payed off tonight as the newly-reconstructed DC Bullpen was able to preserve the lead and save Zimmermann's first major league win.