The Washington Post

If Jordan Zimmermann can’t pitch in the All-Star Game, Stephen Strasburg could replace him

Katherine Frey/The Washington Post (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

Jordan Zimmermann will determine this weekend whether or not his sore neck will allow him to pitch in his first All-Star Game. After the Nationals’ 3-1 loss last night, Zimmermann said he could not figure out how to eliminate the stiffness in the back of his neck, which has moved around in different places. He will prioritize his work for the Nationals over his role with the National League.

“I’d rather be healthy for the second half than pitch in that,” Zimmermann said. “I’d like to pitch in it, but I’m not going to go up there and pitch an inning and have to battle in the second half.”

For Zimmermann to not participate, he would only need to notify the league that his neck would prevent him from pitching. The Nationals may submit a medical report, but at that point it’s basically a formality. There’s no need to “prove” Zimmermann is hurt.

If Zimmermann does pull out, Manager Bruce Bochy would decide who replaces him, a league spokesman said. If he chooses another starting pitcher, the likely move, then Stephen Strasburg may have a chance to replace his teammate.

Among the top 13 NL pitchers in ERA, 10 of them made the all-star team. The three who were left out are the Reds’ Mike Leake (8-4, 2.69 ERA), the Cardinals’ Shelby Miller (9-6, 2.92) and Strasburg (5-6, 2.45), who will start tonight in Miami. None of the pitchers will start Sunday, and so Bochy’s potential replacement would likely come from that trio.

If he had better run support this season, Strasburg would probably already be an all-star, his 15-day stay on the disabled list notwithstanding. When it comes to picking award winner and all-stars, wins still carry substantial weight. Strasburg’s five wins – or six, should he beat the Marlins tonight – will hurt him. Strasburg has pitched 106 1/3 innings, two more than Miller but 11 less than Leake.

Strasburg, who made the all-star team last year, may have a chance to make the team even without Zimmermann pulling out. NL all-star starters Adam Wainwright, Travis Wood and Jeff Locke are all scheduled to start Sunday.

The Cubs have said Wood could still pitch an inning, or maybe to one batter, in the showcase. Bochy has said he wants to reward his own closer, Sergio Romo, with a replacement nod if possible. Wainwright said he would prefer not to pitch and stumped for teammate Edward Mujica, who has 24 saves.

Adam Kilgore covers national sports for the Washington Post. Previously he served as the Post's Washington Nationals beat writer from 2010 to 2014.
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