Washington Nationals' right-hander Jordan Zimmermann is determined to turn his changeup into more of a weapon this year, so that opposing hitters have one more thing to worry about when they face the '07 2nd Round pick who's coming off his best season yet at the major league level.
"[Jordan Zimmermann] was throwing some pretty good changeups, [and] his late-breaking slider. He looked good," Davey Johnson told reporters this afternoon after watching his 26-year-old right-hander toss a live BP session at the Nats' Spring home. The Washington Nationals' skipper and Nationals' catcher Wilson Ramos have been impressed with what they've seen from Zimmermann early in Spring Training, especially one changeup in particular that caught Ramos off guard and bounced off a mitt he'd already closed, expecting a fastball.
Washington Times' writer Amanda Comak talked to the Nationals' '07 2nd Round pick last week about adding the pitch to his repertoire as more of a weapon this season so that opposing hitters have something to think about when preparing to face the starter who finished the 2012 campaign at +3.5 fWAR with a (12-8) record, a 2.94 ERA, 3.51 FIP, 43 walks (1.98 BB/9), 153 Ks (7.04 K/9) in 32 starts and 195.2 IP.
"Last year he wanted to get comfortable enough to use it a handful of times in a game," the Times' Ms. Comak wrote. In 2013, Zimmermann plans on throwing it more often, "... to keep hitters guessing. This year it may be more of a weapon for him on its own," the Times' reporter added.
• Further Reading: Building A Better Jordan Zimmermann - Federal Baseball
Zimmermann's still not completely comfortable with the pitch, however. "I just was throwing it a lot more this offseason," Zimmermann explained, "And I'm going to make a conscious effort to keep throwing it this Spring Training here and try to get it where it's comfortable throwing it any time." It's a pitch Zimmermann has planned on adding to his repertoire for several years now. Last year, the starter said, "It was definitely [a] trust issue of it there, and not knowing when to throw it. A lot of guys like to throw it when they're down 2-0 and you get something down the middle that guys are looking for the heater and you're going to roll over [it] or something like that. And I was [at] the point where I wasn't very confident and I'm not going to throw it 2-0 and then get down 3-0 and really have my hands full."
The work he's done this offseason has Zimmermann more comfortable with the pitch. "I'm at a point right now where I feel comfortable throwing it, but I don't know if I'm to the point where I want to throw it 2-0 yet," Zimmermann said, "Maybe 2-1 or something like that maybe I would think about throwing it, but it's just going to take a lot of work and I can't wait to face some teams where I can throw it a little bit and at least let them see it and know that I have something."
"I'm going to throw it a lot down here and see what happens," the right-hander said, admitting, "I don't really care about what the results [are] down here. Just [get] some work in with it and throw it to someone other than your team." As for what he needs to improve before he's completely comfortable with the pitch, Zimmermann said he has just thrown the change a little too hard in the past.
"There were a few that were 88-89" Zimmermann said, "and I'd like to be in the 86-7 [mph] range if I can get it there." According to fangraphs.com, Zimmermann's change had an average velocity of 86.6 mph last season. Combined with his 93-4 mph fastball, 86-7 mph slider and 78 mph curve, the pitcher has quite an arsenal of pitches with which he'll attack opposing hitters in his fifth major league season in 2013.