(Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)

Jordan Zimmermann will be the first pitcher out of the bullpen if starter Ross Detwiler struggles against the Cardinals, Nationals Manager Davey Johnson said. Zimmermann started Game 2 on Monday in St. Louis and Thursday would be like his regularly scheduled in-between-starts throw day. 

“I played catch today and the arm felt great,” said Zimmermann, who pitched out of the bullpen once only in his career, in college, following a nine-inning start. “I’m definitely ready to go. If the phone rings and they call my name, I’ll be ready.”

The Nationals will need a strong performance from Detwiler, who is making his first-ever postseason start with his team facing elimination. Should he falter, Zimmermann is the first reliever out of the bullpen. He threw only 63 pitches on Monday, allowing five runs on seven hits over three innings. St. Louis has been a thorn in his side throughout his career. He has a career-worst 9.12 ERA over 25 2/3 regular season innings. Including the postseason, it is a 10.87 ERA.

“Hopefully [Detwiler] goes seven and I don’t have to get in this game,” said Zimmermann, whose lone career relief appearance in college came during regionals of the Division III College World Series on one day’s rest. “It would be the best for everything.”

The Cardinals were 31-17 against left-handers during the regular season, one of the best records in the major leagues. Against right-handers, they were 57-57. Nationals starters have allowed 11 runs over 12 innings in the series.

“The last three starts, including myself, it hasn’t been well,” Zimmerman said. “I haven’t thrown many strikes. We kind of taxed the bullpen. We need [Detwiler] to go out there and pitch the way he’s been pitching all year and save the bullpen as much as possible.”

UPDATE: Actually, it appears Zimmermann didn’t remember his minor league relief appearances. He made three of them, his most recent for Class A Potomac in 2008.