Washington Nationals' right-hander Jordan Zimmermann left his 20th start of the 2012 season in Citi Field last week after just 6.0 innings and 89 pitches against the New York Mets. After the start, Davey Johnson told reporters that he had his reasons for removing the 26-year-old starter after a relatively short outing, but he chose not to elaborate, explaining, "I don't want to get in to specifics for all my reasons why I do things, but it was the best thing for him and the best thing for the ballclub that he departed after six."
In his daily pregame interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Dave Jageler before Saturday night's game in Milwaukee, the Nats' skipper told the Nationals' radio announcer that the '07 2nd Round pick has been dealing with inflammation in his right shoulder which has led to the starter taking longer to get loose.
"He's had a little bit of inflammation in his shoulder, there's no secret," Johnson said, "And the only problem is he has a little problem getting loose. Any time that comes up, he's taking medication and stuff, but it's a concern that I'm not going to let him throw a whole lot if pitches if I can help it."
Asked if some of the shorter, 6.0-inning outings recently have ended early after just six innings and 87-95 pitches to protect the right-hander, Davey Johnson said, "He's been very pitch-efficient and he's leading our club in innings I think, he goes six or seven innings, I don't think he's ever gone less than six, but I try to protect all of them, not just Jordan."
"But with [Zimmermann] having a little a little bit... he struggles a little bit to get loose and then he's fine," the manager continued, "He has no problem, but I'll watch him pretty close."
Zimmermann went 6.0 innings again tonight in Milwaukee where he earned the win, allowing five hits, one earned run and one walk while recording five K's and throwing 93 pitches, 69 of them strikes, improving to (8-6) on the year with a 2.28 ERA, 3.41 FIP, 24 walks (1.50 BB/9) and 96 K's (6.43 K/9) in 21 starts and 134.1 IP. "Zim was Zim," Davey Johnson said after the game, "He struggled a little bit in the fourth inning, but picked up the pace and the sixth, just overpowered them, he breezed through the sixth."
"He's had a little trouble warming up," Davey Johnson explained, elaborating on what the issue has been for the Nats' right-handed starter, "So we were a little concerned about that, that's what I was telling you about I was holding his pitches down. He's fine, but it concerns me any time when they have a little bit of trouble getting loose."
The Nats' manager explained that it was an issue that Zimmermann has been dealing with for the last two or three starts for the first ten pitches or so of his warm-up in the bullpen. The issue was in "the back of his shoulder," the manager explained, adding simply, "Any time any little thing goes on like that it concerns me." After the first ten pitches or so, however, "He feels great," Johnson said, "But it's my job and [Pitching Coach Steve] McCatty's... every little thing, any little problem, and so, even though he was getting stronger it looked like, I said, 'That's it.'"
• Zimmermann via the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore on Twitter (@AdamKilgoreWP):
Davey's been extra protective of Znn lately b/c he's had trouble getting shoulder loose. Znn: "It's something every pitcher goes through."— Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) July 29, 2012