Jordan Zimmermann, one of the Nationals’ two all-stars, will not pitch in the All-Star Game on Tuesday because of lingering neck soreness. Nationals Manager Davey Johnson said before Friday’s game in Miami that he would recommend to National League all-star Manager Bruce Bochy that Zimmermann not pitch in the game, and would stump for other deserving Nationals pitchers to replace him. Zimmermann still plans to attend the game with his family.
“I’d rather be healthy than go up there and just pitch one inning and have the whole second half be shot,” Zimmermann said. “I think taking a few days off with no throwing just let it all rest and settle back down and we’ll be good to go.”
Zimmermann, 27, was rewarded for his splendid season — a 12-4 record, a 2.58 ERA and two complete games over 132 1/3 innings — with his first all-star selection. But since mid-May, he has pitched with neck soreness that emerged practically overnight. Zimmermann received an X-ray and MRI and neither test revealed anything, including inflammation. Johnson said there was an issue with the soft tissue in the right-hander’s neck.
Zimmermann tossed 6 1/3 innings in a 3-1 loss Thursday in Philadelphia. Johnson pulled the right-hander after he allowed two hits in the seventh despite a relatively low pitch count of 79. Since the neck issue first arose, Zimmermann had been receiving treatment and pitched through it, still pitching well and maintaining his velocity.
“Obviously looking toward home, looking to first I can feel the tightness in it,” he said. “I don’t think it affects anything but just a nuisance.”
Johnson said Zimmermann was given medications for his neck and will continue to receive treatment. Nationals trainer Lee Kuntz, who will serve as one of the NL’s trainers in the all-star game, will monitor Zimmermann while in New York.
“Some nights it’s a little tougher than others,” he said. “Just waking up in the morning it’s a little stiff and as the day goes on it gets better. … Just middle of May I woke up one morning and had a horrible kink and it just hasn’t been right since. I don’t know if I just strained a muscle or what the deal is.”
Johnson said he doesn’t think Zimmermann is facing a stint on the disabled list. But he thinks the rest from Friday until the next time he starts after the all-star break, at least one week, will be good for Zimmermann.
The pitcher doesn’t talk much, but he admitted to pitching coach Steve McCatty about the neck tightness before Thursday. Johnson said he spoke with Zimmermann’s wife at the pool at the team hotel on Friday and she told him that her husband was hurting. “I’m really concerned about him,” Johnson said.
“[The medical staff thinks] with some medication to kinda calm it down,” he added. “I think once he loosens up he’s pretty good. But I think occasionally there’s a little zinger in there. So it’s something we definitely pay attention to.”
Johnson, who will serve on Bochy’s all-star staff, said he tried calling Bochy earlier on Friday to talk about Zimmermann and potential replacements but reached his voicemail. Johnson said he would put in a good word for Gio Gonzalez (7-3, 3.03 ERA), Stephen Strasburg and Rafael Soriano (24 saves and 2.13 ERA). The last two have the strongest cases to replace Zimmermann. Bochy would decide who replaces the right-hander and a starting pitcher is the likely move.
Among the top 13 NL pitchers in ERA, 10 of them made the all-star team. The three who were left out are the Reds’ Mike Leake (8-4, 2.69), the Cardinals’ Shelby Miller (9-6, 2.92) and Strasburg (5-6, 2.45), who l started Friday night in Miami. None of the pitchers will start Sunday, and so Bochy’s potential replacement would likely come from that trio. Strasburg’s case was likely hurt by his stint on the 15-day disabled list and his poor run support.
As reporters finished their daily session with Johnson in the visiting manager’s office, his cellphone rang. “Hello, Boch,” he said, as reporters exited the room.