USA TODAY Sports
Washington Nationals' right-hander Jordan Zimmermann is working on his change this Spring, trying to get more comfortable with a pitch he's thrown sparingly in the past. In his first Grapefruit League start of the year today he looked strong against the Nats' NL East rivals from Miami.
When Jordan Zimmermann talked to reporters earlier this week, the Washington Nationals' starter said he was going to focus on using his change as more of a weapon this season so that opposing hitters had something else to think about when facing him. The 26-year-old, '07 2nd Round pick has used a change in the past, but said he just wanted to get more comfortable throwing the pitch in any count to keep hitters off-balance. "I'm at a point right now where I feel comfortable throwing it," Zimmermann said, "but I don't know if I'm to the point where I want to throw it 2-0 yet."
In his first start of the Spring this afternoon, Zimmermann went 3.0 innings on 43 pitches, 26 of them strikes, allowing a run on two hits by the Miami Marlins. "I threw strikes," Zimmermann said, and he was, "attacking the hitters" and still able to, "... mix in a few changeups, which were mostly good ones and I'm happy with the first outing." Zimmermann has thrown the change in the past, but he's working this Spring on taking something off of it too, so there is more of difference between it and his fastball which sits around 93-4 mph.
"There were a few that were 88-89," Zimmermann said of his changeups in past seasons, "and I'd like to be in the 86-7 [mph] range if I can get it there." Told this afternoon that scouts had the change at around 83-84 mph, as the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore reported, Zimmermann was happy to hear it.
"That’s perfect, right where I want it," the right hander said.
Zimmermann said he wasn't surprised to feel as good as he did, and get the results he did in his first outing, noting that he had been throwing off a mound for a while now and was concentrating on, "... just going out there and attacking and throwing strikes. And I threw a few that were on the corner I thought could have gone either way, but for the most part I was getting ground balls, getting early contact and that’s what I was trying to do." Facing live batters for the first time felt good, Zimmermann told reporters, "That means the season's getting close and it's right around the corner."
The ground balls were just a sign that he was able to keep the ball down in the zone against the Marlins' hitters in Zimmermann's mind. "I threw a fastball to [Matt] Downs that I struck him out on that was sinking more than normal and it's good, if I have a little more movement and keep it down I'm going to get a lot of ground balls." Joking about the ball moving a little more than usual with reporters, Zimmermann said, "I don’t know what happened, if the ball had a little scuff on it or what…"
He was happy with the way he was throwing the change today. "It feels good right now," Zimmermann said, "I have a good feel for it. I threw a changeup to [Greg] Dobbs at the end, got him to roll over to first. He was sitting on the heater. So that was good." As for what he'll work on in his upcoming starts, Zimmermann said just more of the same. "Like I said the whole time, I want to keep working on this changeup and get it to where I can throw it 2-0 and just throw it whenever I want basically. And that's the main goal right now."
Zimmermann's not just throwing it in any situation, however. "I'm just trying to pick the right situation," he explained, "And try to throw it as much as possible. I threw it 2-1 today to the guy I walked and got behind 3-1, so I don't know if I'd do that during the season, but if I get a little bit better feel I definitely will, but I thought I'd give it a try right there." That player Zimmermann walked was Marlins' outfielder Bryan Petersen. The free pass put two runners on and allowed a sac bunt and a groundout to push the only run he allowed across the plate.
Not the result he was hoping for in that situation. "That's definitely not what I was looking for," the right-hander joked with reporters.