Nationals manager Matt Williams reported during Saturday's pregame that right-hander Jordan Zimmermann is on target to start Tuesday night in Denver against the Rockies. Zimmermann left the July 11 game at Philadelphia with a right biceps cramp.
"He's good to go. He had a good bullpen today," Williams said. "All indications are he's set to go on Tuesday unless he feels something after, but we don't think he's going to."
Even with Zimmermann recovering from what the MRI diagnosed as a right biceps strain, he will not be on a strict pitching count against Colorado.
"I don't anticipate any pitch count," Williams said. "I think we will look at how he's feeling during the course of the game, certainly, but we won't go in with any limit on him. He can go as normal as long as he feels good, which we anticipate he will.
"It's just kind of a freaky thing. You throw that many balls, it's not normal, it's not natural. So if he feels something, certainly where it was an indication of a cramp and something that's minor."
Williams said they will watch Zimmermann during his next start, but won't be hypersensitive to his every move.
"I don't anticipate having to monitor the rest of the year, but we don't know," Williams said. "We don't know if it will come back or if he will have another cramp or not. We'll have to take it start by start, certainly. And in between starts we'll get a better indication of how he's feeling, if he feels it again or not. I think he will be fine."
Zimmermann has been through his share of injuries in his career, especially his recovery from Tommy John surgery a couple of years back. Williams said he's confident that Zimmermann will speak up if something hurts again, like he did against the Phillies, even if he is known as a pretty quiet guy.
"Sure, you don't know how it would affect him beyond or any other part of his body," Williams said. "With the history he's got, you want to be careful for sure. It's good that he speaks up. He's not the guy that would.
"If he does, it gives us an indication that its bothering him because that's not the norm for him. After today, he feels good about the bullpen he threw, had no indication of it being there. He'll get some extra days. I think he'll be fine."
With Tanner Roark going Saturday night and Gio Gonzalez Sunday, Doug Fister is now scheduled for Monday.
Due to the All-Star break, does it concern Williams that Fister hasn't started a game since July 9?
"He can face some live hitters, but it's still not the same," Williams said. "You do that live BP as a progression back from an injury, generally. But that's just the nature of the All-Star break and the nature of who pitched last and who's going to the All-Star game. Certainly Jordan affects that. It's the way it is. We aren't the only club with guys that are doing that, for sure. We'll just have to deal with it and Doug will be ready to go."
Is it difficult then for a sinkerball pitcher to get back into a groove after a nearly two-week layoff?
"Generally, sinkerball guys are better when they are a little bit tired," Williams contends. "With Doug, he's a little bit of a hybrid in that regard, I think. The ball sinks, yes, but he also throws high fastballs, too, on purpose.
"He's not a true sinkerballer in my view anyway, because he does throw high fastballs to get strikeouts. He uses his curveball and his changeup, a little cutter. You worry about guys getting too much time, anybody, losing their rhythm and timing out there. But that's the nature of the game and that's the nature of the break, so there's not much we can do about it except do what everybody else is doing and slot him in there and let him go."
The trade deadline is July 31. Williams does not see any glaring holes in the Nationals roster, but you never know.
"I don't know. I think it's important to say you don't want to do a deal just to do a deal," Williams said. "So who knows what will happen in the next couple of weeks. Right now, it would have to be a huge difference-maker for our ballclub, I think for everybody to be interested in it."