Nationals' Jordan Zimmermann throws two effective innings for Class A Potomac

Stephen Strasburg had the least-impressive start of his young career, but Iván Rodríguez made fans forget about the phenom's struggles.
By Gene Wang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 4, 2010

On the same day Stephen Strasburg made his sixth start in the major leagues, another promising young pitcher in the Nationals organization took a significant step toward getting back to that level. Jordan Zimmermann threw in a meaningful game for the first time since ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow last August.

Zimmermann was on the mound for the Class A Potomac Nationals on Saturday night for a condensed but effective outing in Woodbridge. He worked two scoreless innings against Wilmington before 5,908 at Pfitzner Stadium, allowing two hits and no walks. The hard-throwing right-hander faced one batter above the minimum on 25 pitches, 16 for strikes, and reached the mid-90s on the radar gun.

"It feels great. I mean, I've been waiting for 10 months now," said Zimmermann, who according to Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo will be on a regular schedule in the Potomac rotation. "No pain, felt strong. Everything went well."

Zimmermann's first pitch to leadoff hitter Jarrod Dyson resulted in a called strike on the outside corner. He followed that with a fastball Dyson missed swinging. After a foul ball, Dyson sent Zimmermann's fourth pitch into the gap in right-center for a double.

Zimmermann, 24, shrugged off the momentary setback and got the first out of the game on his next pitch. Dyson advanced to third on that sacrifice play, but Zimmermann then fielded a sharply hit ball right back to him, checked Dyson on third and threw to first for the second out. He followed that by inducing a groundout to short to end the threat.

In the second inning, Zimmermann surrendered another leadoff hit, this time a single to Will Myers. Zimmermann then got Nicolas Francis to fly out to right field and finished his start by getting Salvador Perez to hit into a double play.

As a second-round pick in 2007, Zimmermann was the Nationals' top homegrown pitching prospect before Strasburg. In 16 starts for Washington last season, he went 3-5 with a 4.63 ERA, 92 strikeouts and 29 walks following a late-April call-up. His rookie season was cut short when he went to the disabled list on July 23 with what was initially described as right elbow soreness.

The usual recovery time from what is commonly known as Tommy John surgery is roughly between a year to 18 months. Zimmermann, however, has been well ahead of that schedule, and what had become an optimistic prognosis of him coming back this season now appears more reality than possibility. In fact, the best-case scenario has Zimmermann back in the majors perhaps by the end of this month.

"There's a process for everything," Zimmermann said. "You've got to start in the minors and get your innings and get your work in and get back to where I was when I first got called up."

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