VIERA, Fla. - While Jordan Zimmermann and Nathan Karns took a beating today for the Nationals, Rafael Soriano and Henry Rodriguez delivered scoreless innings in relief.
Rodriguez, making his spring debut after working back from elbow surgery and some biceps tightness, pitched a 1-2-3 sixth inning this afternoon, and needed just eight pitches to do so.
Manager Davey Johnson had originally planned to give the flame-throwing righty just one batter this afternoon, but he ended up being pitch-efficient enough to get through an entire frame. Rodriguez got ahead of J.D. Towles 0-2 before getting him to line out to left, retired Ryan Jackson on a soft flyball to right and then got Greg Garcia to ground out to first on the first pitch he saw.
Rodriguez delivered first-pitch strikes to all three hitters and seven of his eight pitches were strikes.
Pretty impressive debut.
Zimmermann was not as impressive today. The righty allowed eight runs on nine hits over just three innings. He got beat around in a six-run third inning, but hey, it’s March 8. The results mean nothing now.
“I just threw some fastballs up in the zone and obviously they’re a good-hitting team,” Zimmermann said. “When I did make some pitches, they put good wood on it and hit a few down the line. They’re a good-hitting team.
“I felt fine. I had a couple long innings and got a little tired there in the third. I’m just glad it’s spring training and I got it out of the way now.”
The fastball command clearly wasn’t there for Zimmermann today, but he felt good about his off-speed stuff, for the most part. That includes his change-up, which is a work in progress this spring, and his curve.
“I threw some good curveballs, two-strike curveballs,” Zimmermann said. “I hung one to (Ronny) Cedeno there and that was a stupid pitch, but other than that, I threw some good curveballs that were in the dirt and some good sliders. The fastball was just a little off the plate and when I had to throw a strike, it was a little up. You’re gonna get crushed when that happens.”
Zimmermann said he still isn’t throwing with 100 percent force and his velocity will tick up a bit more later in spring as a result. Despite the ugly stat line today, Zimmermann was able to pull some positives from his outing.
“I threw some good change-ups, and I’ve been working on that all spring,” he said. “I threw a few good ones today and made some quality pitches. You can’t look too much into it. Like I said, they’re a good-hitting ball club and you leave them over the middle, you’re going to get crushed. It’s just, I’ve got to command the fastball a little better.”
It’s 15-3 Cardinals as we go to the eighth.
Update: That’ll do it. The Nats got a seven-run ninth, including a solo homer from Micah Owings, a two-run single by Matt Skole and a two-run homer off the bat of Zach Walters, but fell to the Cardinals 16-10.