The Washington Times - February 24, 2013, 05:40PM

VIERA, Fla. — Jordan Zimmermann got through three innings of work on 42 pitches, 26 of them strikes, in a sharp first outing of the spring as the Nationals tied the Marlins, 2-2 in 10 innings.

The right-hander, who has been working on his changeup for several years, has resolved to use it more this spring in an effort to improve his trust of the pitch. Zimmermann threw it multiple times on Sunday and noted a “good feel” for it.

While his fastball was clocked between 93-95 mph by scouts in the stands, his changeup was coming in between 83-84 mph, a good differential.

“That’s perfect,” Zimmermann said. “Right where I want it.”

Zimmermann felt confident enough to use the pitch in a 2-0 count, but it was a ball, and he took the Bryan Petersen to 3-2 before walking him. In his final inning of work, though, Zimmermann threw one in a 1-1 count to Greg Dobbs and got him to roll it over to first base.

“I’m just trying to pick the right situation and try to throw it as much as possible,” he said.

– Drew Storen climbed the mound at Space Coast Stadium on Sunday to face opposing hitters for the first time since Game 5 of the National League Division Series. It was 2-1, Nationals, in the ninth inning.

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So how did Storen treat the outing?

“Like live batting practice,” Storen said. “That’s really what you’ve got to do. There’s no point in sitting there right now going ‘This is the ninth inning, this is all that.’ It’s nice to win and all that, but in the end, it’s about preparing yourself for the season. It’s about the 162, not the (35) we’re playing this spring. That’s the way I look at it.”

Last spring, Storen came out in his first outing and, in his words, ‘Let it eat.’ After that outing he began to feel pain in his right elbow. On April 11, Storen had surgery to remove a bone chip from his elbow and he didn’t make his first major league appearance of the season until July 19. 

He wasn’t about to go full-throttle again early in the spring.

Through that process, though, Storen learned how to use different gears. In rehab, he was forced to throw at 60-percent effort, 85-percent effort, etc., and build his way back up. That sounds like the tact he’s taken to this spring as he prepares for what is a long season and could go deep into October.

“It’s tough,” Storen said. “That’s the challenge that spring training is… You want to sit there and do all those things, but you’ve got to look at the big picture and know it’s February (24) and we’ve got a long time to go.

“I don’t need to hit the accelerator right now. I have the ability to work on some things, and I think that’s really where the rehab process helped me last year. You just take it easy and work through things and just kind of get a feel for it, because you do have that extra adrenaline going on the mound, no matter what situation it is, so it’s just about toning it down and being in control the whole time. Not overstepping it. You’ve got to jog before you sprint.”

Storen finished the appearance allowing two hits and an earned run on 13 pitches (nine strikes).

“He was getting his work in,” said manager Davey Johnson. “I thought he left the ball up. He had good velocity but he just left some balls up, out over the plate. I don’t put too much stock in it early. I want these guys to be ready for Opening Day.”

– Storen was also asked if he had any response to a CBSsports.com report that he was pitching through excruciating back pain during the NLDS, including in Game 5.

“Nah,” he said. “It’s not an issue. The game’s done. The game’s about results. It didn’t work out well. We’re past it.”