JUPITER, Fla. - Jordan Zimmermann's first outing of the spring was nothing special; he allowed four hits in three innings, throwing pitches with less break than usual because of a stiff wind at his back. But Zimmermann didn't give up a run, and for the right-hander, the outing was a small checkpoint.
Zimmermann felt his arm come completely back from Tommy John surgery last winter, when he finally took some time off from throwing after rehabbing through the 2009 winter and into the 2010 season. He'd looked good in bullpen sessions this spring, but he hadn't had to pitch and sit down between innings yet. The fact that he could do that without any problem gave him some comfort.
"This is my first time throwing innings, so I didn't know how it would feel," Zimmermann said. "I just wanted to see if there was any tightness over having the whole offseason, letting it recover and then starting it back up and throwing three innings. But it didn't get tight at all, so that's good."
He's been thumped around by the Cardinals in the past, and gave up two hits in the first inning, where he's struggled in the past. But he pitched out of jams in the first and the second inning.
He also took a little ribbing from Albert Pujols after cycling through all of his pitches and then throwing a fastball that caught the game's best player off-guard.
"I shook through all my pitches and threw a fastball down the middle," Zimmermann said. "He said, 'Were you trying to quick-pitch me there?' And I was thinking to myself, 'Well, I'll do anything to try and get you out.' I wonder what the ball looks like when it comes into Pujols - if he sees a beach ball or what. That's what it seems to be every time I'm out there throwing."
Pujols singled in both of his at-bats against Zimmermann, and is 4-for-5 with a pair of homers against him. He also roughed up Zimmermann in spring training in 2009.
"He hits me pretty hard," Zimmermann said. "I'll have to figure something out."
Zimmermann isn't the only one.