Jordan Zimmermann stood on the mound on Friday afternoon in Viera for his third start of a long spring training and fired fastballs at the St. Louis Cardinals hitters. The pitches were within his normal range of velocity, especially for this time of the year. But the pitches were often too high in the strike zone, inviting to the Cardinals hitters. Zimmermann battled, and his manager saw the familiar symptoms of what’s known as “dead arm.”
“It’s about this time of spring,” Davey Johnson said. “All my pitchers go through a little dead arm. He was little dead arm. He got some treatment afterward. Nothing anything to worry about. Probably a little fatigue in there. But I see that third time out, sometimes fourth time out, get that with everybody.”
Zimmermann started Friday’s 16-10 loss with ease: facing three batters in the first inning thanks to a double play. He hung a curveball to Ronny Cedeno in the second inning with two on base and surrendered two runs. The issues, however, really began in the third. He allowed the first five batters to reach, four with solid hits and one on a walk. He allowed two more hits before ending the six-run inning.
Zimmermann had little command of his fastball and had a better feel of his offspeed pitches. (“I threw a few good change-ups, which I was happy about,” he said.) When he had to throw a strike behind in the count, the fastballs were high in the zone and asking for trouble. He also walked two hitters.
“I felt fine,” he said. “I had a couple long innings and got a little tired there in the third. I’m just glad it’s spring training and I got it out of the way now.”
According to a friendly scout, Zimmermann’s fastball velocity sat between 92 and 94 miles per hour, which is within his normal range. Last season, he average 93.8 mph, according to Fangraphs.com. “I’m still not 100 percent [with my velocity] and still building a little bit, but we’re getting there slowly but surely,” he said.
Because of the World Baseball Classic, spring training started earlier than normal and last longer. The Nationals have a rare three days off sandwiched in between games this month. Pitchers are preparing earlier and for longer build-ups than before.
“It can happen earlier because they’ve been out there quite a while,” Johnson said. “It’s not something I’m worried about. It’s something they always go through.”