24-year-old right-hander Jordan Zimmermann was scheduled to pitch in Tuesday afternoon's game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, but when it was postponed the Nats took the opportunity to have Zimmermann skip a start and keep the rotation going in order while they rested the '07 2nd Round pick who's in his first full season back following Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Washington Nationals' officials were quick to point out, however, that it was in no way tied to any injury, a point which Nats' Skipper Jim Riggleman reiterated this morning in an appearance on MLB Network Radio's first pitch with hosts Rob Dibble and Jim Memolo:
"This rainout did give us an opportunity," Riggleman explained, "We've got Jordan Zimmermann coming back from Tommy Surgery, so we're looking for a couple opportunities, this one and maybe around the All-Star Break where we really put him on the deep end of coming back to pitch, so he's going to get nine days in between starts and then at the All-Star Break he'll probably do the same thing so it will allow us to keep him deeper into the season."
"He's really throwing the ball well," Riggleman continued, "He's feeling good, but we have a cap on how many innings he's going to get this year. I don't even know what the number is, but I know it's been determined that he's going to get "x" amount of innings. If he were to get 30, 32 starts x [6.0 IP], he would be in that 200.0 innings area and we're really not looking for him to get 200.0 innings after coming off surgery in '09. So, if we can get him somewhere around 150-160.0 innings, we may as well do it with really being precautionary and giving him some extra rest a couple times a year, so that's what we're going to do."
The Auburndale, Wisconsin-native made seven starts at the end of the 2010 season, walking 10 (2.90 BB/9) and striking out 27 (7.84 K/9) in 31.0 IP over which he had a 4.94 ERA and a 5.85 FIP. In eight starts and 48.0 IP so far this season, Zimmermann's walked 11 (2.06 BB/9) and K'd 35 (6.56 K/9) with a 4.13 ERA and a 2.70 FIP. Zimmermann's seen a decrease in the percentage of ground balls he's gotten from hitters (48.9% last year to 42.1% so far this season), an increase in fly balls (38.3% to 44.1%) but far fewer (22.0% to 3.0% HR/FB) are going out of the park so far this year. Zimmermann's next start will now take place on Sunday when the Nationals visit the Orioles for Interleague play.