The Washington Times - March 16, 2009, 04:36PM

As spring training games go, this might be one of the sharpest you’ll ever get from the Nationals. They made two errors, including one that led to Florida’s only run in the sixth inning, but they were never really threatened other than that.

The big story today was Shawn Hill and Jordan Zimmermann. The two combined for two hits and eight strikeouts in five innings. Mike Hinckley, Josh Towers and Garrett Mock finished the game.


Zimmermann, again, was nothing short of excellent. He displayed an extra bit of bravado today, shaking off catcher Wil Nieves, who wanted a 3-2 fastball, and instead threw a slider for one of his six strikeouts. The right-hander said he primarily favored his 90-94 mph fastball through college and the minors, but has gained more confidence in his slider recently.

“Today, I just felt like I had it,” Zimmermann said. “Most days, I feel like I can throw it at any time for a strike.”

It was that pitch, according to manager Manny Acta, that stood out most about Zimmermann’s day.

“For those guys that haven’t seen him, they struggle with that slider. He locked up a couple of good hitters in their lineup today,” Acta said. “Not too many Double-A, first-time big league camp guys can come out and make a pitch like that. That was literally a big-league pitch.”

Acta still isn’t ready to hand Zimmermann a spot in the rotation — too much can still happen — but he sounded like he’s moving closer to that being a reality.

“Clearly, it’s not about stuff or whether he can do it or not,” Acta said. “We’re going to make the decision on whether it’s going to be the best thing for him and for us. Right now, it looks like it will be the best thing for us.”

Also: Cristian Guzman will be day-to-day with the cut on his small left toe. Acta said Guzman was going to get the day off tomorrow anyway, so the Nationals will re-evaluate him Wednesday.