Jordan Zimmermann Remains Perfect - Washington Nationals Organization's Top Prospect Battles Collin Balester For Rotation Spot

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 5, 2009

VIERA, Fla., March 4 -- This spring, Jordan Zimmermann has thrown five innings -- just enough time to make a strong impression, and still not enough time to find a major league hitter who can reach base against him. Wednesday afternoon, Zimmermann, Washington's top-rated minor league prospect, enhanced his chances to make the season-opening rotation with three more perfect innings in a 6-4 win against the New York Mets.

His line through two spring training appearances: five innings, no hits, six strikeouts, no walks.

Manager Manny Acta, after the game, spoke of Zimmermann's "electric" four-pitch repertoire. Pitching coach Randy St. Claire spoke of Zimmerman's "great" arm and "great" mechanics and, yes, "great" feel for pitching.

Provided all other starting pitchers remain healthy, Zimmermann is competing with fellow 22-year-old Collin Balester for a final rotation job. After Zimmermann's perfect three innings against the Mets, Balester answered with an uneven performance: two scoreless innings, with a four-run hiccup -- the result of two home runs -- wedged in between. Balester said later that he just made a few mistakes, fastballs that stayed high. Zimmermann, for his part, is still waiting to make a mistake.

"Just one-two-three and I was out of there," Zimmermann said.

The Nationals, naturally, won't decide whether he makes the team until they've seen more. But already, the coaching staff has taken note of Zimmermann's unruffled demeanor.

"He's got to come in here and compete," St. Claire said. "So you've got that mental aspect that's going on, too. How does he handle that? How does he handle competing for a job? Is he going harder and harder like a lot of young kids do -- which I think a lot of our bullpen members are doing right now. They're trying to make the team. They're trying too much. [With] Zimmermann, you don't see that. He's just going out and pitching. He's just concerned about his pitches and his execution. And he executes everything. He's special."

Young Is Day-to-Day

First baseman Dmitri Young was held out of Wednesday's game because of tightness in his back. The team is listing him as day-to-day. Nick Johnson homered for the second time this spring, launching a two-run homer to deep right in the first against New York starter Mike Pelfrey. The Nationals are 3-3 in the Grapefruit League.

No Match for Bonds

The Nationals are not interested in signing out-of-work slugger Barry Bonds.

"It's not a match for us," Manny Acta said after choking back a little laughter. "You know, I don't think at this stage of his career Barry is gonna pick a team that is rebuilding anyway."

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