• What We Learned On Day One Of Spring Training:
3. Jordan Zimmermann On MLB Network Radio: First things first. If you're visiting Viera, Florida, Space Coast Stadium and the Washington Nationals in their Spring home, 24-year-old, '07 2nd Round right-hander Jordan Zimmermann recommends Carrabba's Italian Grill. Zimmermann's also a Packers fan by birth, having grown up in Auburndale, Wisconsin, and he laughed when asked if it was more satisfying for a Packers fan to have beaten the Chicago Bears in the NFC title game or the Steelers in the Super Bowl before saying the championship win was the one that counted. He was a Favre fan til the QB went to Minnesota, then he was with Aaron Rodgers. Having recovered from elbow reconstruction surgery to return to the mound late last season, the top pitching prospect in the system before Stephen Strasburg arrived is now finally 100% and ready to pick up where he left off in 2009. Zimmermann's apparently a man of few words but he shared some of them with MLB Network Radio hosts Jim Bowden and Mike Ferrin on Inside Pitch this afternoon.
4. "I feel great and I feel strong, and I mean, I had a good offseason," Zimmermann said when asked about his recovery from Tommy John surgery, "I'm ready to go and finally, I guess it's good to be back down here and be able to go out every day and not have any limitations and be able to go with everyone else and do what everyone else is doing. I feel strong and I just want to go out and have a good year and pitch the way I know I can pitch." The right-hander taken out of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point with Washington's compensation pick for losing outfielder Alfonso Soriano to the Cubs, was (3-5) with a 4.63 ERA, 3.59 FIP, 2.86 BB/9 and 9.07 K/9 in his first 16 starts and 91.1 IP after debuting in April of 2009, but the elbow injury ended his first major league season in mid-July of '09.
5. "Among those position players already in Viera: [Ryan] Zimmerman, [Jayson] Werth, [Nyjer] Morgan, [Ian] Desmond, [Danny] Espinosa and [Brian] Bixler*." - via @NationalsPR
6. Brian Bixler = 28-year-old IF/OF, Pittsburgh Pirates' '04 2nd Round pick who was traded to Cleveland for IF/OF Jesus Brito (1/18/10) and then back to Pittsburgh for a PTBNL (7/12/10) before he was acquired by the Nats from the Indians for cash on 8/7/10. Bixler put up a .285/.347/.389 slash line with 18 doubles, four triples, four HR's and 18 stolen bases in 102 games and 411 plate appearances between each team's Triple-A affiliate.
7. Zimmermann worked his way back in a little over 12 months, making ten starts at three levels of the Nats' system before returning to the majors in late August. In seven starts with the Nationals, Zimmermann K'd 27 (7.84 K/9) and walked 10 (2.9 BB/9), surrendering 17 ER, 8 HR's and 31 hits in 31.0 IP. Asked how close he is to the pitcher he was before the injury at this point, Zimmermann said, "I think I'm pretty close. My fastballs last year were, I mean, right up there, I mean, maybe down a mile an hour or two, but I feel strong and I think my curveballs gotten a lot better since surgery, so I feel good." As far as when he finally felt confident that his elbow was fully recovered, Zimmermann said, "When I got back down to Spring Training [in 2010], and was throwing outside and threw about 120 ft and felt great and felt that I could air it out. Once I got to that point I knew I was pretty much ready to go."
9. Zimmermann's return to the rotation is every bit as important as the additions he mentions as being the big three the Nationals made this winter, LHP Tom Gorzelanny, RF Jayson Werth and 1B Adam LaRoche. The third-year starter also mentions right-handed relievers Adam Carr and Cole Kimball as two people he's excited to see pitch this Spring. Zimmermann was then asked about which catcher he prefers throwing to from the choices he has on the Nats' roster.
The 23-year-old Wilson Ramos crossed paths with Zimmermann in Syracuse last August and in D.C. in September as both worked their way up to Washington. "It doesn't really matter for me, but Ramos is a big target back there and he frames the ball pretty well," Zimmermann said, "and I've thrown to him quite a bit when I was coming up through the minors there and then last year towards the end. I probably threw to him five, ten times, so, I like throwing to him and I mean, Pudge? Who doesn't like throwing to a Hall of Famer? So...and I just saw [Jesus] Flores today and he looks good, I mean, he's completely healed and it's going to be fun to see those three go at it in Spring Training."