Two years ago, in his first full year back from Tommy John surgery, Jordan Zimmermann was shut down at 161 1/3 innings. Last season, Stephen Strasburg was shut down after 159 1/3 innings.
Jordan, the 24-year-old right-hander who gets the ball for the Nats tonight, is already at 131 innings between two minor league affiliates and the Nats this season, meaning he might not be long for the rotation this year.
The Nats aren’t establishing a hard innings limit for Jordan, with manager Davey Johnson saying that Jordan could go anywhere up to 155 innings. The Nats will monitor how Jordan looks physically and how effective he is as his innings continue to rise. Things will also be tied to how Ross Ohlendorf fares as he works back from the right shoulder inflammation that has landed him on the DL.
Ohlendorf is making a rehab start for Triple-A Syracuse today, and he’s scheduled to throw a side session back here at Nats Park on Tuesday. The Nats will then evaluate whether Ohlendorf is ready to be activated from the DL and what role he might fill.
“That side will tell us where we’re at,” Johnson said. “That’ll tell us how he came out of it. And then we’ll make the determination if he needs one more (rehab start).”
In essence, it’s possible today could be Jordan’s last start. It’s possible he gets one more outing after today. The rookie could end up pitching deep into August.
The Nationals don’t want Jordan to worry about any of that. They’ve told him to just go out and throw, and when it’s determined his season is over, well, his season will be over.
“Like, it really messed up Strasburg last year,” Johnson said. “I think Taylor is not thinking about, ‘What’s the number? Do I go four innings or five innings? If I go seven, am I done?’ We’ve explained to him, ‘No, you’re in the rotation. We’ll treat you just like a regular pitcher. You can go as far as you can go. When you look like you’re losing it, we’ll take you out.’
“So we’ll see by the way he throws.”
Jordan started the season at high Single-A Potomac, making six starts there before getting bumped up to Double-A Harrisburg. He punched up a 0.83 ERA and a 4.78 strikeout-to-walk ratio there before the Nats came calling.
In seven starts at the big league level, Jordan has pitched to a solid 3.76 ERA, a respectable 1.28 WHIP and allowed just two home runs. He’s seemed to settle in more and more as the last six weeks have gone on, and has really impressed the Nats brass in his first taste of big league ball.
“Here’s a young kid, came out of A-ball,” Johnson said. “He throws across his body a little bit, and early on it affected his slider, but his slider, that’s his third pitch, has gotten better and better. He’s got a great arm. I think he hit 96 (mph) up in Milwaukee. He’s still learning and his command seems to be getting better. His No. 2 pitch, the changeup, is outstanding.
“The guy that has that combination, I mean, it’s a great formula for success up here. When you get to command it like him, he has great command. Holds runners. Competitive. Pretty good hitter. He’s definitely one to hold on to, for sure.”
Jordan might not have many starts left in the Nats rotation this season, but he’s certainly put himself in the mix for a full-time spot there next year.