PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - If they handed out superlatives at the end of Nationals spring training like they do at the end of, say, high school, "Best Start" would without question go to Jordan Zimmermann.
The righty threw six scoreless innings against the Mets in today's 3-2 win, allowing just two hits with no walks and striking out two. He faced only one hitter over the minimum, kept the ball on the ground, getting nine groundball outs to just four flyouts, and very rarely allowed anything to be hit squarely.
"That was superb, to say the least," manager Davey Johnson said. "That's him. That's who we've grown to know and love."
Zimmermann is not only the first Nationals starter to complete six innings this spring; he's the first to even work into the sixth. The 25-year-old was so pitch efficient today that he needed just 68 pitches to get through the six frames, and would have been allowed to go out for the seventh if not for a blister which developed on his foot late in the outing.
Johnson said that he thought the blister caused Zimmermann to elevate a few pitches in the sixth and joked that if not for the minor medical issue, Rob Johnson's sixth inning double off Zimmermann might not have happened.
"Of course. The blister caused it," Johnson said with a laugh.
After his last start, Zimmermann talked about how he was going to go into today's outing focusing on simulating a regular season game.
The Nationals have to hope he can simulate these results once the regular season kicks off.
"I feel pretty pleased right now," he said. "I feel like I'm peaking at the right time. All the pitches are working well. The slider was really good today. I'm happy with where I'm at.
"The other starts, I was working on some stuff. Today, I had a little talk with Cat (pitching coach Steve McCatty). He said, 'Let's go after these hitters like you're going to go after them during the season.' That was the game plan."
Zimmermann didn't mind that the blister knocked him out of the game before the seventh, because, despite his low pitch count, he felt like he got in enough work to build up a little more arm strength.
"I mean, it's more the up-and-downs for me," Zimmermann said. "As long as I can get out there and take a break and get back not having any problems, that's the biggest thing for me."
Zimmermann's final spring training tune-up will come Monday, April 2 against the Red Sox.