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Nationals pitcher gets schooling with Suns

Zimmermann allows 7 runs in loss to Power

July 27, 2010|By BOB PARASILITI
  • Washington Nationals pitcher Jordan Zimmermann took the mound for the Hagerstown Suns on Monday.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

Jordan Zimmermann got a childhood lesson.

Momma always says, "Be careful when you play with sharp objects."

Zimmermann's pitching arm was sharp Monday when he pitched for the Hagerstown Suns in a rehabilitation assignment at Municipal Stadium. It might have been too sharp for his own good. Despite quality pitches for most of the outing, the Washington Nationals starting pitcher had his worst statistical outing in an 8-4 loss against the West Virginia Power.

Zimmermann allowed his first walk and first earned runs in his fifth start of his rehabilitation stint after Tommy John ligament replacement surgery on his right arm. He allowed seven runs (six earned) on seven hits and a walk in five innings. Zimmermann made his outing before a brain trust which included Washington general manager Mike Rizzo, manager Jim Riggleman and pitching coach Steve McCatty.

"I thought I was sharp," Zimmermann said, while icing his arm after the opening-game loss of a doubleheader. "I got a lot out of (the outing) ... it's all a learning process. I was trying to be too fine with my pitches."

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After an easy first inning, Zimmermann issued a leadoff walk to West Virginia's Aaron Baker. After a single and a fielders' choice grounder, Rogelio Noris crushed a shot over the fence in right field for a 3-0 lead.

The leadoff man hurt Zimmermann, the Nationals second-round pick in the 2007 draft, again in the third.

Eleuys Gonzalez tripled on a drive that right fielder Destin Hood lost in the sun. It led to a two-run homer by Jose Hernandez. The Suns committed two errors behind Zimmermann to produce a third run and fall behind 6-2 after 2 1/2 innings.

"Of my five starts, I thought it was my sharpest," Zimmermann said. "He hit a curveball for a home run, and I had a couple of fastballs up. There were a lot of hits that came off the end of the bat or off the labels. You can't do anything about that.

"I was getting 1-2 counts and trying to finish them off in four pitches. I was doing that when I was called up last year. I have to stop doing it."

Zimmermann made his debut with the Nationals in 2009 and went 3-5 in 16 starts before being sidelined with an elbow injury, forcing him to undergo surgery in August.

Zimmermann made the first four comeback starts in Single-A Potomac, where he was 0-1 with a 0.00 ERA in 13 innings of work. He allowed one unearned run on 11 hits. The 24-year-old didn't allow a walk and struck out 13 in those outings.

"This has all been a learning experience," Zimmermann said. "I was in the minors, but I had never played (in Hagerstown) before. It's kind of tough coming back through again."

Still, this one was the sharpest to date.

"My arm feels pretty much the same as it did before surgery," Zimmermann said. "Sometimes it feels better. Today, the first two innings were a huge difference. When I first came back, I was a little all over the place. Today, I felt like my old self."

Zimmermann is one of seven Nationals pitchers who are presently on the disabled list. The list includes Scott Olsen, who pitched for the Suns on July 17.

Zimmermann's next start is scheduled to be at Double-A Harrisburg. After that, it will be up to the Nationals.

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