Friday, March 4, 2011;
Zimmermann has encouraging debut
Jordan Zimmermann could not climb a mound at this point last March, and he has a constant reminder this spring training. "The same thing [Stephen] Strasburg is doing right now," Zimmermann said, "I was doing last year."
Now, rather than playing catch with a trainer, Zimmermann is firing fastballs and sliders at a catcher, in a real, live game. Zimmermann made his first appearance of the spring Thursday, allowing three hits and a walk in three scoreless innings, striking out one.
The specter of his Tommy John surgery and recovery has not quite left his mind, but Zimmermann was pleased with how his elbow responded Thursday. When he came back to the majors in late August, his elbow would sometimes stiffen in the dugout between innings. He wondered if the same thing would happen on Thursday, and was happy to learn it did not.
"The big thing for me was the up and downs," Zimmermann said. "How I was going to feel in the second and third innings - was the arm going to get tight? I felt great. I felt awesome the whole time."
Except for maybe the few, fleeting moments when the greatest hitter on the planet walked to the plate. Albert Pujols banged two of the hits off Zimmermann, both singles.
"I just wonder what the ball looks like when it comes in to Pujols, whether he sees a beach ball or what. That's what it seems to be every time I'm out there throwing. I'll have to figure something out."
The next time out, Zimmermann won't have to worry about Pujols. That wasn't his only source of encouragement. "I feel better now than I did last August, September," Zimmermann said. "My arm was a little tight in August and September. Now I can get full range of motion. Everything feels good."Harper on Yankees
After Bryce Harper participated in his first spring training workout, he outlined some of his goals for the spring, which included watching Pujols take batting practice, something he got to do on Thursday. He also mentioned playing against the Yankees. "I love the Yankees," he explained. "I've always loved the Yankees since I was younger. They have all the studs. They have a lot of studs out there. You just want to see how everybody goes about their business."
On Saturday, Harper will be able to check that off his list, too. Manager Jim Riggleman said Harper will travel with the Nationals for their game in Tampa against the Yankees, the team Harper grew up rooting for. With CC Sabathia scheduled to start, Riggleman said, Harper will come off the bench.
Riggleman said Harper may or may not start a game before he heads to minor league camp. He also said he's surprised that Harper already has six plate appearances, two in each game. That wasn't the plan; it just happened that way.
Harper did say he'll stop loving the Yankees once he steps on the field against them.
"Yeah, I want to beat the Yankees," Harper said.
- Adam Kilgore