VIERA, Fla. - It was a quiet 3-2 ballgame this afternoon, with just nine total hits put up by the Nationals and Yankees.
Jordan Zimmermann had a good bit to do with the limited number of baserunners, at least when it came to the Yankees' offensive attack.
Zimmermann worked four perfect innings today, going 12-up, 12-down. He struck out four and threw 54 pitches on the afternoon, 37 for strikes.
"It went pretty well," Zimmermann said. "First couple innings, I didn't get ahead of the guys like I wanted to. I was behind in the count and wasn't able to throw a first-pitch strike too often, but I was pitching behind and you're gonna have that during the year, too. So I guess it's good to get some work in."
Sure doesn't sound like a quote from a guy who just retired all 12 hitters that he faced and seemingly breezed through a fairly solid road Yankees lineup.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi brought four of his projected starting position players with him - Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann - and Zimmermann was happy to face some quality competition as he tries to refine his stuff this spring.
"Yeah, those first four or five guys are pretty solid ballplayers," Zimmermann said. "I was just locating pretty good and I was mixing everything today. I wasn't holding anything back. I threw some pretty good sliders down and in to Ellsbury and Gardner and they took 'em like they've been seeing them for many years. I couldn't believe that, but other than that, everything went well. I threw some good changeups, fastball was good and I flipped a few curveballs in there, too."
Zimmermann says he starts throwing earlier than most pitchers leading up to spring, which leads to him being more ready for exhibition games. He admits that he might get ready "too quick" at times, but feels strong at this point, with three spring starts likely ahead of him before the regular season arrives.
His stat line through three spring starts: 9 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 1 BB, 9 Ks.
"I feel like I'm ready to go," Zimmermann said. "Now it's just building up arm strength and getting up to 80, 90 pitches before the season starts. My stuff is pretty sharp right now."
His manager sure thinks so, as well.
"Really good," Matt Williams said of Zimmermann's outing. "Working fast, changing speeds, throwing strikes. More of the same. He was really good. He pounds the zone, man. He's getting his work done. That's for sure. He was good."
What else does Zimmermann need to accomplish this spring other than continue to build arm strength?
"He needs to get some ABs and get deeper into games," Williams said with a smile. "No, he's been really good every time out. That's what we've seen, though. We saw it last year. All three (pitches) for strikes when he wants, and balls when he wants them, too."
As it stands right now, if the Nats keep Zimmermann on an every-fifth-day starting schedule through the rest of spring, he would be in line to start opening day March 31 against the Mets. Williams has talked about using the off-day next Tuesday as a chance to line up his starting rotation for the rest of spring and into the regular season, but he did say that Zimmermann will get some consideration for the opening day start.
"Of course he will," Williams said. "He won a whole bunch of games last year. Nineteen of them, I think. He's been really good."
Offensively for the Nats today, Anthony Rendon had a two-run double and a run scored and Jayson Werth had two hits.
Manny Delcarmen threw a 1-2-3 ninth inning, the veteran reliever's fourth scoreless outing in as many appearances this spring.
"His velocity is really good," Williams said. "He's used to coming in late in games, so it doesn't bother him. He understands that part of it. He's been pounding the zone and going after guys. So I like what I've seen so far."