Jordan Zimmermann last pitched two weeks ago in Cincinnati, when he reached the 160-inning limit the Nationals imposed on him in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery. Since his final pitch of the 2011 season, Zimmermann has behaved like any other starting pitcher – playing catch, lifting weights, occasional batting practice, watching games – aside from the actual pitching. It has not been an experience he views fondly.
“Boring as s---,” Zimmermann said. “I can still throw and do whatever. I just can’t pitch. It’s kind of boring doing the same stuff every day and not being able to go out there and pitch.”
The time off has allowed Zimmermann one small benefit. He can lift weights with more intensity while he doesn’t play, which he will continue doing so until the end of the season. Zimmermann will then take a month off before restarting the weight training in the offseason.
It comes as little solace for Zimmermann, who understands the Nationals’ caution but wishes he could still be part of the rotation. He became the Nationals’ clear ace during his 161 1/3 innings, posting a 3.18 ERA with 124 strikeouts and 31 walks.
“I knew it was 160 this year,” Zimmermann said. “I’m glad I made it to 160 without any problems. I wish I could have gone longer – 180, maybe. It’s all a process, I guess. I felt like I was strong enough. I felt like I could have kept pitching. But you don’t want have something happen and look back and say to yourself, ‘Maybe I should have shut it down at 160.’ ”
Zimmermann recovered from Tommy John surgery more than a full year ago, but the effects are still present when he watches every fifth day rather than pitch. Stephen Strasburg, who will make his second start back from Tommy John surgery, will have the same experience next year, and has already talked about looking forward to 2013, when all restrictions have finally been removed.
The best news for Zimmermann is that, barring an unexpected injury, he will not have to sit and watch again.
“It’ll be nice to not have to worry about an innings limit,” Zimmermann said. “Just go out there and pitch all year long.”