VIERA, Fla. - Ahhh, spring training. You like to think that the numbers generated during a month of exhibition play really mean something tangible, but as my MASN broadcast partner Dave Johnson - who knows a thing or to about it - frequently points out, it's really too small of a sample to count for much.
That said, a lot of folks down here - including a bunch of scouts for other teams - are pretty impressed with Jordan Zimmermann, who threw five scoreless frames this afternoon against the Marlins and has yet to allow an earned run this spring. His return from Tommy John surgery - in a year and a day - was impressive enough, and so far, he looks exactly like (actually better than) the guy who led the staff in strikeouts in only 16 starts in 2009 pre-injury.
I've seen it written that Zimmermann is competing for the No. 4 starter's slot this spring, but honestly, on this staff today, what does that really mean? Once the season is under way, labels like "No. 2 starter" or "No. 4 starter" really mean very little to the people inside the game. Does he have the best repertoire among Washington's starting pitchers? He might. Does he lack experience? He does. But he's a exceptionally bright kid, a very fast learner and, in the absence of Stephen Strasburg, can carve out a very nice niche for himself in 2011.
One scout gushes about Zimmermann. "He's the real deal, no doubt about it," he told me. "Our club had our eye on him, We thought because he came from such a small school (Wisconsin-Stevens Point) he'd fall past the top 75 players, but Rizz (Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo) had him scoped out."
Former National Shawn Hill threw the final three innings for Florida, allowing a hit and striking out four. Hill, who's had more than his share of arm miseries during his career, bounced from the Padres to the Blue Jays since leaving Washington in 2008 and signed a minor league deal with the Marlins in January. He's still just 29 and has thrown five scoreless innings this spring.