“Oh, God, we need to get out of here,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said. “If we all get going like that, it’s going to be dangerous. He needs to sit the bench for a while. Play a little golf, relax for a little bit. He’s good to go.”
In his third at-bat, against Adam Ottavino, Zimmermann took an awkward half-swing at a curveball and looked at a slider for strike three, totally fooled. His scalding spring had hit a small speed bump. And yet, “the third at-bat,” Zimmerman said, “was the probably the best at-bat for me.”
Zimmerman probably has less regard for spring training results than any player in the Nationals’ clubhouse. He wants to use the spring to prepare for the season, and whatever the statistics say, he could care less. Zimmerman liked the last at-bat because Ottavino had showed him breaking balls.
“It was good. It obviously didn’t look good, but it was good to see curveballs, sliders,” Zimmerman said. “Everyone throws so many fastballs. I try to wait it out, take some pitches to see something else. The first week or two, the pitchers aren’t really throwing all their stuff. You try to see as much as you can. I feel good. I’m seeing the ball good, on time. I think that’s the most important thing.”
Of course, Zimmerman was happy with his first two at-bats, too. He likes to get about 50 at-bats in spring training, which he figures is the minimum the team would let him take.
“The results down here, it’s a bonus,” Zimmerman said. “You just want to have good at-bats, see some pitches, barrel the ball. If you get it up in the wind and it goes out, whatever. Just getting the barrel on the ball and recognizing pitches is the most important thing.”
Despite Zimmerman’s nonchalance, he has typically had great spring trainings. His teammates, even after playing with him for a few years, marvel at his ability to see pitches and crush them right away. LaRoche just shook his head.
“After I saw him hit in three at-bats, I thought he was locked in,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “And he’s been locked in ever since. You talk about leading by example, he’s definitely leading by example. Everything he does. His work ethic, everything. He’s just exemplifying the great player that he is.”