VIERA, Fla. — Spring training statistics don't matter. Really, they don't.
That's why Jordan Zimmermann stood in the Washington Nationals' cramped clubhouse Friday afternoon at Space Coast Stadium without a hint of concern on his face.
Pick through the three-hour, 13-minute marathon that included 34 position players, 14 pitchers, the teams batting around three times and, eventually, a 16-10 win for the St. Louis Cardinals, and Zimmermann's crooked line could cause alarm.
After all, no sane pitcher wants to be shelled for eight runs and nine hits over three innings. But the outings can be as much a part of spring as the smell of sunscreen and men clutching binders of baseball cards in search of autographs and the parade of minor leaguers through each game's late innings.
"You can't look too much into it," Zimmermann said.
Building arm strength is his focus. Same with the spring-long effort to work on his changeup.
Manager Davey Johnson believed Zimmermann's right arm is simply tired after his third spring start. Nothing unusual. Nothing concerning. If anything, it's part of March's routine.
"About this time of spring all pitchers go through a little dead arm," Johnson said. "Nothing, anything to be worried about."
Zimmermann threw 61 pitches, 39 for strikes, and admitted he tired as the outing extended. Otherwise, he felt fine. The Cardinals sent 10 men to the plate in the third, as five consecutive batters reached base to start the inning. Zimmerman left fastballs up in the zone and his breaking pitches weren't as sharp as usual.
"I'm glad it's spring training and I got it out of the way now," Zimmermann said.
That's spring training, where an outing that'd qualify as a full-fledged nightmare during the regular season can be shrugged off before the game's even over.
— Recovering from August surgery on his right elbow, Henry Rodriguez threw a scoreless inning Friday in his spring debut. Initially, Johnson slotted Rodriguez to pitch to one batter, but he needed just eight pitches to work through the inning. Rodriguez threw first-pitch strikes to each of the three men he faced. He threw two off-speed pitches and, afterward said through a translator he felt "like the old Henry" but feels like there's more improvement to come.
" He was happy when he came in and I was happy," Johnson said.
— Right leg tightness bothered prospect Nathan Karns during his ineffective outing. That will send him to the doctor for further examination and left Johnson "concerned." Bothered by the leg in his previous outing, the Cardinals battered the hard-throwing Karns for four hits and seven runs (two earned) in two-thirds of an inning.
— Wilson Ramos continued his uneventful return to catching during games. He caught all three of Zimmernann's innings and Johnson plans to rotate Ramos and Kurt Suzuki at the position going forward. That's welcome news to Ramos as he continues to return from last May's torn anterior cruciate ligament.
"For me, it's not the same when I (play) designated hitter," Ramos said. "I feel more excited when I catch. That's good stuff for me, for my rehab."
Ramos also slid into third base on the right knee without incident while advancing after a passed ball.
— After making the trips to Clearwater and Kissimmee this week, Denard Span was the lone Nationals regular not in Friday's lineup.
— Chris Young is scheduled to start Saturday's game against the Miami Marlins and Dan Haren gets the nod Sunday against the Detroit Tigers.
© Copyright 2016 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.