Jordan Zimmermann talked after Wednesday night's start against the Braves in Atlanta, Georgia's Turner Field, in what was likely his last for the Washington Nationals who drafted him in the second round of the '07 Draft, about getting back on the mound after Tommy John surgery late in 2010 determined to become one of the game's best.
"When I first had Tommy John I was a little shooken up and didn't really know much about it," Zimmermann, now 29 and headed for free agency, told reporters.
"But after reading some stuff and seeing all the guys that went through it and came back I knew I'd be fine. My goal was when I came back to start being this elite pitcher that's going to eat up innings and then go out every five days and grab the ball and give the team a chance to win and that's what I've been doing the last few years."
In the second half of the 2011 campaign, from late June on, Zimmermann pitched until he was shut down under the watchful eye of veteran manager Davey Johnson, who talked late in 2012 about the development he saw.
"Jordan Zimmermann was arguably my best pitcher last year,"Johnson said. "He was coming back from being out with Tommy John."
Zimmermann threw 161 ⅓ innings, winning eight of 26 starts, (8-11), but was shut down in late August, having put up a 3.18 ERA, a 3.16 FIP, 31 walks (1.73 BB/9) and 124 (6.29 K/9) before he was done with a 3.4 fWAR campaign.
"This year he's taken it up a notch and his personality is coming out a little more," Johnson continued.
"He's usually very quiet, but Zim is a man and he don't miss nothing. He has a presence that's a very strong, quiet presence, but he's a fighter.
"He has been a little more outwardly this year... and he's fun."
Teammates, coaches and players league-wide were impressed.
"[Third base coach] Bo Porter will tell you. He talks to the opposing players and they have the utmost respect for Jordan Zimmermann," Johnson said. "Believe it."
When the Nationals went to the postseason for the first time in 2012, and lost in the NLDS, Zimmermann was (12-8) in 32 starts with a 2.94 ERA, a 3.51 FIP, 43 walks (1.98 BB/9) and 153 Ks (7.04 K/9) in 195 ⅔ IP over which he was worth 3.3 fWAR.
A 19-win, 3.7 fWAR season in 2013 (3.25 ERA, 3.36 FIP, 1.69 BB/9, 6.79 K/9, 213 ⅓ IP) as the Nats fell short of a return to the postseason, and a 5.3 fWAR run in 2014 (2.66 ERA, 2.68 FIP, 1.32 BB/9, 8.20 K/9, 199 ⅔ IP) and second loss in the NLDS followed and what's looking like his final season in D.C. ended tonight with a loss which left the 29-year-old righty (13-10) on the year, with a 3.66 ERA, 3.76 FIP, 39 walks (1.74 BB/9) and 164 Ks (7.32 K/9) in 33 starts and 201 ⅔ IP.
Zimmermann's run in the Nationals' rotation coincided with their rise to the level of legitimate contenders, though it's ended with unrealized expectations if it's his final season in Washington.
"When I first got drafted we were at the bottom and we had a few good drafts and got some great talent and we rose to the top," Zimmermann said.
"Made the playoffs a few times and I've enjoyed every day and this year didn't go the way we wanted it to go, but we're still battling, still grinding and every games counts and everybody is giving it their all."
"And I feel strong," he said. "I feel healthy at the end of this year and like I said, we'll see what the offseason brings."
He's headed for free agency, but even last night allowed for the possibility of a return to the Nationals which seemed a lot less likely when Max Scherzer signed on as a free agent last winter.
Now Zimmermann has earned the right to see what's out there for him.
Asked if he felt a return to the Nats' rotation was likely, he said, "I'm not sure. I can't really answer that.
"Every team is going to have a shot and we'll see this offseason what happens and if they come calling."
After two seasons together, the first word Matt Williams chose to describe Zimmermann was "consistent":
"That's the word that comes to my mind, is consistency," Williams said.
"Durable. Reliable. For a starting pitcher that's important and he's provided this organization that for a long time.
"It's always tough having Tommy John. He's responded from that. He's worked to become the pitcher he has become. I admire him for that and respect him for the way he goes about it every fifth day."
"He's fierce on the mound," Williams continued. "That's a trait that's innate. You don't teach that. That's in his DNA.
"Again, he's been reliable, durable and goes to the post every fifth day."
Zimmermann admitted, as the last few days of a disappointing season play out, that he's thought about the fact that his six-inning start against the Braves in Turner Field could be his last for the Nationals.
"I've been thinking about it the last couple days actually, and maybe not being around these guys any more next year," Zimmermann said.
"Some of these guys have been around for seven years and I've had a great time and we'll see what the offseason brings."
Zimmermann allowed two runs and a walk and threw 82 pitches against Atlanta, 46 them fastballs (one two-seamer according to BrooksBaseball.net), 23 of them for strikes, 19 curves and 17 sliders.
His four-seamer averaged 93.7 mph, and got up to 95.1, not one of his breaking balls was put in play for a hit and 13 were called strikes, nine with his curve and four with his slider.
With the score 2-0 after six, however, and Zimmermann's spot in the order due up, Williams tried to get something going with pinch hitter Reed Johnson, who grounded out for the second out of a 1-2-3 top of the seventh.
"I thought he pitched well," Williams said.
"He worked through the sixth. We get to the seventh, we've got to try to score."
"I wish we'd got the win tonight," Zimmermann told reporters. "But that's the way baseball goes, and we'll see what this offseason brings."