Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann‘s outstanding spring has earned him a spot in the Nationals’ rotation, The Washington Times’ Mark Zuckerman reported this morning. The 2007 second-round pick will make the jump from Double-A after going 15-5 with a 2.74 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 205 K’s in 187 minor league innings over the past two seasons and posting a 3.14 ERA this spring. Nats manager Manny Acta said Zimmermann will be the team’s No. 5 starter, and since they don’t need a fifth starter until April 19, he’ll likely begin the year with Triple-A Syracuse.
Zimmermann, who will turn 23 in May, was ranked by Baseball America as the top prospect in the Nats organization this past offseason. He’s a quick worker who attacks hitters with a four-seam fastball that reaches the mid-90s, a low-90’s two-seamer, a sharp mid-80s slider, a mid-70s curve and a developing changeup that he made progress with last season. “It needs a little work, but it’s coming around,” Zimmerman said in an interview with National Pastime last July. “I’ve got to throw it a lot more and get the feel for it.”
Acta said Shairon Martis will occupy the No. 4 spot in the rotation. The right-hander, who will turn 22 on Monday, went 1-3 with a 5.66 ERA in five big league appearances last season but is 21-15 with a 3.80 ERA in four minor league seasons. He tossed a seven-inning no-hitter for the Netherlands against Panama in the 2006 World Baseball Classic. Collin Balester, who had been competing with Zimmermann and Martis for a rotation spot, will begin the season in Triple-A. Balester went 3-7 with a 5.51 ERA in 15 starts for the Nats last season.
The Nats also placed talented but underachieving outfielder Wily Mo Pena on waivers. If he clears waivers - which is likely, given his guaranteed $2 million contract - he can either report to Triple-A or become a free agent. Pena has as much raw power as any player in baseball and hit 26 home runs in just 336 at bats for the 2004 Reds, but he’s never managed to put it all together. He hit just .205 with two homers and 10 RBI in 64 games last season.
Infielder Jose Castillo and outfielder Corey Patterson were assigned to minor league camp, as was catcher Javier Valentin, who declined the assignment and is now a free agent.
Jay LeBlanc is an assistant news editor at The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.