Jordan Zimmermann insisted that his sore arm in spring training wasn’t anything to fear. Nationals Manager Davey Johnson echoed the sentiment. The right-hander proved it in his start on Wednesday.
Zimmermann’s command was under far better control, he was finishing on fastballs and offspeed pitches and was stronger on the mound. His fastball sat between 93 and 94 miles per hour on the radar gun. He allowed three runs — only one earned because of defensive miscues in the first inning — on four hits over 4 2/3 innings.
His arm responded well after firing 82 pitches, the most he has thrown this spring. He threw mostly fastballs and breaking balls, tossing only a few of his work-in-progress change-ups.
“I felt great today,” he said. “I mean, the other time I was a little sore, but today I felt really good and it felt good to stretch it out and throw 80 pitches or whatever. It definitely felt good to stretch it out. I like to get that last hitter and a couple close calls, but I’ll take 4 2/3.”
His battery mate for those innings, Wilson Ramos, also received heartening news. Johnson said Ramos will start again at catcher on Thursday — the first time he will play back-to-back games behind the plate since his May knee injury. He will then rest a day, and then resume playing every other day and alternating with Kurt Suzuki.
>>> Drew Storen allowed a solo home run to Collin Cowgill, who has two career home runs in 216 plate appearances, in the seventh inning. Johnson said not to read too much into Storen’s outing; he was tinkering with delivery and pitches, as he always does during the spring. Storen’s arm strength is good, he said.
>>> All of the Nationals regulars in the game in Viera — except for Ramos, Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche — played a full nine innings on Wednesday for the first time this spring. That was a result of the split squad games at home and in Kissimmee against the Astros. Later in the spring, they will play that many innings again before getting a breather before the final week or so.
>>> The relievers, particularly the hard throwers, will soon begin pitching every other day in preparation for the season. “So they start pitching more rather than coming out there with two days off and firing,” Johnson said. “Get a little more tired, get a little more feel for the ball. I do that with all the bullpens.”
>>> In the split squad game in Kissimmee, the Nationals topped Houston, 9-7. Anthony Rendon went 4 for 5 with three RBI and smacked his fourth homer of the spring. Micah Owings started in left field and went 3 for 5 with two RBI.
Ross Ohlendorf started and lasted three innings. He allowed four runs on five hits, walked three batters and struck out two. He threw 60 pitches, 33 for strikes.