The day Stephen Strasburg found out he would need Tommy John surgery, Jordan Zimmermann officially completed his comeback from the same operation, making his first major league start just over a year after having the operation done.
Zimmermann's first big-league start of the year didn't go how he wanted - he allowed five runs in four innings -but his recovery from the surgery has to register as an unqualified success story. He made it back on the front end of the timetable, coming back so fast that the Nationals had to slow him down, and posted a 1.59 ERA in 10 minor-league starts.
And when Strasburg found out he would soon start the same process, Zimmermann was one of the first people to offer his support.
"I talked to him already," Zimmermann said. "I just told him if he needs to talk to me in the offseason, just give me a call if he's got any questions or anything. Just work hard through the whole process and before you know it, you'll be throwing again."
Zimmermann's fastball touched 94 mph in his first start back from surgery, about where he was last year, and he said his delivery came back exactly the way it was before the surgery. Doctors took a ligament from Zimmermann's hamstring, and his body has recovered well enough that he can't feel any difference when he runs, either.
"I honestly thought it was going to be worse than what it was," Zimmermann said. "I never really had a setback or anything. The worst part was the first two months, just doing range-of-motion stuff and boring stuff like that."
Like Strasburg, Zimmermann fought with himself last year before the surgery; his fastball was still sharp and he hadn't lost any velocity. But Zimmermann said he got to a point where he couldn't throw between starts.
He's made it back without any trouble, though, and said he recovers from starts quicker than he ever did before surgery. Zimmermann will pitch in the Nationals' rotation the rest of this year, and is expected to be a key part of the team's 2011 rotation.
He and Strasburg have been grouped together as the future of the Nationals' rotation. Yet despite the fact they've been in the same organization for more than a year, one's path has barely brushed the other's; Zimmermann had Tommy John surgery a week before Strasburg signed with the Nationals last August, and Strasburg began the surgery process the day Zimmermann completed it, taking Strasburg's spot in the rotation.
Manager Jim Riggleman allowed that it was disappointing not to have the two pitchers together. But, he said, "it's still going to happen. It's just going to be another year before it happens."