Jordan Zimmermann. J-Zim. The Double N. Mr Auburndale, WI himself comes back tonight to pitch for the Nats for the first time since his promising rookie year. This is like the Strasburg debut, only, 50% less exciting. But it is a big night for the team, Zimmermann is their future #2, a guy with real potential. Let’s do a quick refresh and look at his background.
The Nationals drafted him in 2007, as the second compensation pick for free agent Alfonso Soriano. That year he started 11 games in low-A, finishing 5-2 with a 2.38 ERA with 71K/18 BB in 53 IP. In 2008 he started 4 games in high-A, compiling a 1.65 ERA before being promoted to AA. There he pitched 106 2/3 innings, all as a starter, with 103 K/39 BB, compiling a 3.21 ERA. In January of 2009, Baseball America noted that in A+ and then AA he took major steps forward and, “emerged as the clear-cut top prospect in the organization.” Baseball Prospectus ranked him the team’s #1 prospect and said “he does nearly everything well, has a strong durable frame, and easy arm action” but didn’t see him as an ace.
He pitched well enough in the spring of 2009 to win the 5th starter spot, but started out in AAA until there was a need for the 5th guy. After one start in Syracuse he was called up, and made his major league debut on April 20th.
That night, he waited through a 2 hour and 10 minute rain delay and got through the first inning in only 7 pitches. He finished with 6 innings, give up only 2 ERs, strike out 3 and walk 1 in front of a crowd of 12,473, the smallest crowd in Nats history up to that point, and earned rave reviews for his performance.
After that, his season continued to be strong, although not dominant like Strasburg, he showed promise. A poor May in runs allowed coupled with an increase in Ks lead him to finish the month of May, adding in the 2 April starts with a 6.07 ERA but 47 Ks in only 46 innings, with 17 walks thrown in there. This showed promise, and by June it had seemed he had put everything together. He made 4 starts in June, pitched 23 2/3 innings, struck out 22 and only walked 6, while amassing a 1.90 ERA. July added 3 more good starts, lowering his season ERA to 4.50 by July 12th, with 86 IP, 84 Ks and 28 BBs. The next start didn’t go as well, while he did strike out 8 and only walked 1, he gave up 4 ER thanks to 6 hits in only 5 1/3 IP, including a home run. After that game they put him on the DL with elbow discomfort which eventually led to Tommy John surgery and a relatively quick recovery.
Tonight will be just about 13 months from the date of his last start. The surgery took place on August 19th, a year ago from last Thursday. His recovery time has been very quick, and it is impressive to see him back on the mound in such a short time. His recovery in the minors has gone very well. He’s pitched 39 2/3 innings climbing up 4 levels, and has a 1.59 ERA with 31 Ks to only 6 BBs. Regardless of how he performs tonight, his minor league stats this year – which include 4 dominant starts in AAA – show that he’s ready to be back. It will be exciting to see this guy go again, and more so to