FREDERICK, Md. -- Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann dominated his second rehab start following recovery from Tommy John surgery.
Zimmermann went the scheduled three innings Thursday afternoon against the Frederick Keys in the sweltering heat at Harry Grove Stadium before 3,824. Potomac defeated Frederick 7-4.
Jordan allowed just one hit, no runs, no walks and struck out five Keys batters, including the side in the first frame. Zimmermann threw 49 pitches, 34 of those for strikes. He left with a 5-0 Potomac lead, highlighted by a three-run homer off the bat of Michael Burgess.
A scout in the front row told me Zimmermann hit 96 miles per hour and was consistently mid-90s on his fastball.
Zimmermann was thrilled by his outing, especially the three punch outs in the first inning.
“I didn’t know how it would be with the heat today. I went out there and I was really loose. All my stuff was working all three innings. The defense was playing well. I was locating a lot better today than I was the last outing. I am very pleased with my performance.”
Jordan says this start had a much better feel than even his first on Saturday.
“I felt ten times better today than I did in my last start. The location was way better today than my last start. I was locating for the most part all day long. I was coming inside and it was pretty much there all the time. I felt the off speed stuff and everything else was working well too.”
Zimmermann struck out Xavier Avery to begin the game. He then allowed a double to Kyle Hudson, a former wide receiver at the University of Illinois. But he ended the inning by striking out Ronnie Welty and Joe Mahoney to finish the frame with 18 pitches, 13 for strikes.
In the second inning, Zimmermann allowed a hit by pitch to L.J. Hoes, but struck out Bobby Stevens to end the inning. Zimmermann threw 19 pitches in the second frame, 13 for strikes.
In the third inning, it was clear Zimmermann was in a groove, his tempo was not allowing the Keys hitters to get into any rhythm. This was in contrast to Frederick’s starter Ryan O’Shea, who was struggling to find the plate. In the third, Zimmermann struck out Avery for the second time in the game and had his first 1-2-3 inning.
“I don’t like to stand out there and take my time. I like to get the ball and get back on the rubber and get ready to throw the next pitch. I got a fast tempo and that is the way I like it.”
Zimmermann felt he could have continued into the fourth inning if necessary.
“I felt good. I could have gone back out there. I am excited to go in another five days from now.”
The fastball again appeared in the mid-90s. Jordan’s off-speed pitches also were locating well. Pitching coach Paul Menhart helped him fine tune his changeup in the week leading up to this game.
“I threw it in bullpen and it was right where I wanted it every time. I had good action on it. It was a lot slower than the other one I had been throwing. If I keep working on it, I should have something in the next couple of weeks.”
Jordan says he expects to have a couple of more starts with Potomac. The team will be heading to Fenway Park Saturday for a futures game but Zimmermann will stay back and is likely to start July 14 against Kinston in Woodbridge. He says he plans to go four innings in his third start.
And when does he think he will be back with the Nationals?
“Hopefully, I can continue on this pace and make it back up there by September.”