The Washington Times - April 20, 2009, 11:11AM


Less than two years after the Washington Nationals made him a second-round pick out of Division III Wisconsin-Stevens Point, right-hander Jordan Zimmermann is set to make his big league debut tonight - weather permitting - against the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park. The 22-year-old earned a rotation spot by going 15-5 with a 2.74 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 205 K’s in 187 minor league innings at three levels over the past two seasons and posting a 3.14 ERA in spring training. He started the year with the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs because the Nats’ schedule dictated that they didn’t need a fifth starter for the first two weeks of the season.


Zimmermann’s first big league start couldn’t come at a better time for the Nats, who have stumbled out of the gate to a Major League-worst 1-10 record in large part because of a 6.38 staff ERA - the second-worst mark in the National League. And while it’s unlikely he’ll get enough run support from a lineup that is currently tied for ninth in the Senior Circuit in runs to win a lot of games, his advanced approach makes him a good bet for success and even a sleeper Rookie of the Year candidate.

As we look forward to Zimmermann’s debut, let’s take a look back and see where his head was at last summer when he was mowing down hitters for the Double-A Harrisburg Senators. I had a chance to speak with Zimmermann on July 23 when his Senators traveled to Bowie, Md., to take on the Baltimore Orioles-affiliated Bowie Baysox, and he provided some great insight on his background and his approach to pitching.

Q: You went from playing at a Division III program to being a second-round pick in the MLB draft. Would you consider yourself a late bloomer?

A: Yeah, I’d say I was a late bloomer. In high school I wasn’t throwing nearly as hard as I am now; I was probably throwing 86, 87. I just stayed close to home, went to a Division III school and started lifting weights, and I started throwing harder.

Q: What was your reaction when you learned you’d been drafted by the Nationals?

A: I was excited. My agent said it was a great team to get drafted by. The ballclub was struggling a little bit and they needed some pitching, and he said “This is a good fit for you.”

Q: Could you talk a bit about the different pitches you throw and how you like to use them?

A: I like to get ahead with my fastball. Late in the game I like to start guys out with the curveball and put them away with the slider. I’m developing a changeup right now; it needs a little work, but it’s coming around.

Q: What are some of the things you’re trying to work on this season?

A: Basically, the biggest thing is the changeup. I’ve got to throw it a lot more and get the feel for it. It’s a feel pitch, and that’s the biggest thing right now.

Q: Is there any pitcher, past or present, that you either look up to or try to model your approach after?

A: Growing up in Milwaukee I really liked Ben Sheets. He’s had a lot of injuries the past couple years, but he’s one of the guys I really like to watch, and have a good time watching.

Q: Washington’s a National League franchise, so you’re going to have to step up to the plate. How are your hitting skills?

A: Well, I hit in college my sophomore and junior years and hit like .350 to .375. After taking a year off I’ve struggled a little bit, but I hit a double a couple games ago and I’m seeing the ball and drawing a lot of full counts. Hopefully it comes around sooner or later.

Q: How soon do you think you’ll be ready to help the Nationals?

A: Whenever they want to give me the call I’m ready. I just need to get this changeup figured out, and I think I’m really ready to go.

Jay LeBlanc is an assistant news editor at The Washington Times. He can be reached at

Click here to view the original Jordan Zimmermann Prospect Q&A