There wasn't much talk about 26-year-old right-hander Jordan Zimmermann's outing following his 28th start of 2012 last Thursday in Nationals Park since Washington and Chicago had two bench clearing brawls in the series finale with the Cubs in the nation's capital. Before that game, the chatter had been about the '07 2nd Round pick's performance in August and the issues he had in his previous start against St. Louis. Nats' manager Davey Johnson talked to reporters about how Zimmermann sometimes struggled after an extra day's rest between starts, "... when he's stronger or felt too strong," on the mound. When he's struggled, Johnson said, it's because he's, "... been up in the zone and jumping," at the end of his delivery.
For a young pitcher like Zimmermann, the veteran manager said, adjusting to adversity is, "... part of the learning process," and figuring out what to do when you struggle with control or can't find your command whether you're too strong or just don't have it is an important part of a pitcher's development. "When you do get that you still need to keep the same kind of rhythm and release and locate the ball," Johnson said, "A pitcher doesn't feel the same way every time they go out every five days. Part of pitching up here [for] thirty-some starts, is being able when you don't have your explosive fastball that you locate it better or use the breaking ball more to set up the fastball. That's part of the learning process."
The only way for Zimmermann to learn is to experience the sort of struggles he's gone through in his first full season at the major league level. "[Pitching coach Steve] McCatty can tell him that he's going to get in trouble when he jumps at the hitter and flies open, and the elbow drops down," Johnson explained, but it's up to the pitcher to make the necessary adjustments on the mound. In the brawl-filled affair with the Cubs, Zimmermann bounced back nicely from the start against the Cardinals the previous Saturday which saw him give up eight hits and eight earned runs in 3.2 IP.
Three of the five hits and both of the earned runs Zimmermann allowed in 7.0 IP against Chicago came early in the game last Thursday night. The Nats' right-hander got behind Anthony Rizzo and gave up a two-out solo home run on a 3-0 pitch to the left-handed hitting first baseman in the top of the first. In the second, Cubs' second baseman Darwin Barney hit the second of two second inning triples to drive in the only other run Zimmermann allowed. The Nats' starter retired the side in order in the third, fourth and fifth, gave up a two-out single (by Rizzo again) in the sixth and a double and a walk in the seventh before he struck pinch hitter Brian LaHair out looking for the Nats' starter's ninth K of the night. Davey Johnson was impressed with what he saw.
"I thought [Zimmermann] was great," Johnson said, "He threw a couple pitches early on where he was flying open. Left a slider up right over the middle of the plate to Barney, but I thought he got back to where he needs to be and threw the heck out of the ball." That was the only mention Zimmermann got in that night's post game press conference. After the game, the former University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Pointers' starter had a (10-8) record on the year with a 2.99 ERA, 3.58 FIP, 34 walks (1.78 B/9) and 131 Ks (6.87 K/9) in 171.2 IP.
Zimmermann makes his 29th start of 2012 tonight in Citi Field, where he's (2-1) with a 3.25 ERA in five starts and 27.2 IP so far in his career with the Nats.
• Here's a quick look back at Zimmermann's nine K's in his last outing: