Jordan Zimmermann will make his first start of the spring on Saturday afternoon when the Washington Nationals play the Grapefruit League home opener against the Atlanta Braves in Viera, Florida's Space Coast Stadium. Coming off a +3.6 fWAR 2013 campaign in which the '07 Nats' 2nd Round pick was (19-9) with a 3.25 ERA, 3.36 FIP, 40 walks (1.69 BB/9) and 161 Ks (6.79 K/9) in 32 starts and 213 1/3 IP, Zimmermann signed a 2-year/$24M deal with the Nationals which covers his final two years of arbitration eligibility.
In an interview with ESPN980's The Sports Fix host Thom Loverro today, the right-hander was asked if a much-discussed long-term deal with the team that drafted and developed him was still a possibility.
"Before the two-year deal we were in discussion" Zimmermann explained, "but we didn't find any common ground. And then they threw [out] the idea of a two-year deal and we liked it and felt it was fair for both sides so we got the deal done and now we don't have to worry about it next offseason and can just focus on baseball and none of that other stuff. So it was definitely good to get it out of the way and who knows what the future will bring and I'm just going to play it one day at a time."
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Asked to look back on last season and diagnose what went wrong, Zimmermann said he had given it some thought.
"I thought about it a little right after the season," he said. "Basically, it comes down to we didn't play well early in the year and got ourselves in too big a hole and we couldn't get out of it. So this year we've got to come out hot and play good ball early and get a little bit of a lead on some of these other teams and if we do get into a little bit of a rut mid-season we can weather the storm and be fine."
• Listen to the entire interview with ESPN980's Thom Loverro and Jordan Zimmermann HERE.
In his own interview today, Denard Span too was asked for his take on what went wrong in what was his first season in D.C. following a trade that brought him from Minnesota to the nation's capital last winter. "I just think that we got going too late," Span said. "We didn't come out of the gates swinging like we should have. It just took us a little too long to get it going and clicking on all cylinders."
Span was one of the Nationals who started slow, but he put together a strong stretch over the last month and a half of the season. He went on a 29-game hit-streak and posted a .338/.375/.459 line over the final 39 games.
Span finished the year at +3.5 fWAR with a .279/.327/.380 line over 153 games and 662 plate appearances. Loverro asked him today if it felt like two different seasons for the outfielder in the first and second half.
"The first half compared to the second half was totally different for me," Span said. "I think the second half I got in a rhythm more, my confidence level was up and I was just able to get myself going."
The 29-year-old outfielder, who turns 30 tomorrow (2/27) said he carried the good feeling he had late last year into the winter.
"Of course I was pleased with the way I finished the season off," Span explained. "Going into the offseason, my whole offseason was geared towards the familiar feelings and doing drills that I did to finish the season off. And there's no question that I am going to play at that same intensity throughout the season."
• Check out the entire interview with ESPN980's Thom Loverro and Denard Span HERE.