(Julio Cortez/AP)

All three of Zimmermann’s strikeouts came on swing-and-miss sliders, which induced awkward flails from Eugenio Velez, Zack Cox and Mike Adams. He found trouble after he hit Bryan Anderson to put two men on base with one out, but he got out of it when Alex Cora hit a shallow flare to left, which Roger Bernadina turned into a double play.

“I felt okay,” Zimmermann said. “I had a rough time locating the fastball today, but I threw some good ones when I needed to.”

While Zimmermann’s slider stood out, he threw only one changeup among his 44 pitches. He made the changeup, a pitch he’s spent years trying to develop, the focus of his spring. But after Zimmermann threw one in the first inning, pitching coach Steve McCatty told Zimmermann to wait for another day to experiment with his changeup, because the Cardinals stuffed their lineup with left-handed hitters and the wind was blowing out to right field.

Zimmermann threw his fastball in the 90-94 mph range today, and he wants to create a larger discrepancy between the pace of his fastball and changeup. “It feels good,” Zimmermann said. “The one I did throw was a tad hard. I just need to take a couple more miles an hour off it, and it will be fine.”

One trip through the rotation, with John Lannan as the fifth starter, Nationals starters have been charged with three earned runs in 13 2/3 innings, which, if you’re interested in an all-time meaningless stat, works out to a 1.98 ERA. They’ve struck out nine and walked five, in total.

“They’ve all been pretty impressive,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “For this time of year, I thought they all had great velocity, great arm strength.”

In the next time through the rotation, which starts tomorrow with Edwin Jackson, Nationals starters will throw about 60 pitches.