There were plenty of rumors this winter, most of which, in the Washington Nationals' case, revolved around shortstop Ian Desmond and right-hander Jordan Zimmermann. Nats' skipper Matt Williams told reporters earlier this Spring that both players heard the rumors, but he was confident that when nothing happened for either of them, they would turn their concentration to the job at hand this season in what could be each of their last runs in D.C.
"I care about their mentality," Williams explained. "I care about -- a lot of the focus was Desi, a lot of the focus was Zim. I care about their mentality. We've had the discussion and their response is, 'We are Washington Nationals, we're proud of that. And we are ready to do what we can to help our team win.'
"I don't think either one of them are thinking about it at this point. They want to play. They want to go out there and compete and that's where we're all at right now. What will happen will happen and there's not much we can do about it at this point other than get ready for the season and play. And they're both very focused on that, which is a really good thing. There is a lot of talk. A lot of talk during the winter time. And that's good. It means they are both very good players. They're desireable to other teams. But at the end of the day as we sit here right now, they're on our club and they're going to help us win."
While the signing of Max Scherzer in January only increased the chatter, the Nationals haven't yet traded any of their starters in the wake of the 7-year/$210M deal, which Zimmermann told reporters this week made an impression on the players in the clubhouse.
"Much of that speculation centered around Zimmermann," MLB.com's Jamal Collier wrote this week, "but ownership did not make rotation cutbacks after making the major addition. That decision, Zimmermann said, was appreciated throughout the club."
With the winter over and Zimmermann still part of the Nationals' rotation, he'll look to build on a 2014 campaign that ended with a no-hitter in the regular season finale and an impressive showing in Game 2 of the NLDS.
Zimmermann finished his sixth major league season (14-5) with a 2.66 ERA, 2.68 FIP, 29 walks (1.31 BB/9) and 182 Ks (8.20 K/9) in 32 starts and 199 ⅔ IP. He'll make his first start of the Spring at 1:05 PM EST this afternoon when he and the Nationals take on the Atlanta Braves in Lake Buena Vista, Florida's Champion Stadium.
Here is the Nats' lineup for the second game of Grapefruit League action:
NOTE: Today's game with the Braves is available via MLB.com's Gameday Audio, though it's Atlanta's feed.