- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 5, 2009

ZIMMERMANN DAZZLES IN SECOND START

VIERA, Fla. - Manager Manny Acta began the day by declaring the competition between Jordan Zimmermann and Collin Balester for the Washington Nationals‘ final rotation spot wide open. It still is, but if Zimmermann keeps pitching as he did Wednesday, it will be tough for the Nationals not to keep him in the majors.

Needing just 34 pitches to get through three no-hit innings and striking out three, Zimmermann again delivered on the lofty expectations placed on him before his first spring in big league camp. Both Acta and pitching coach Randy St. Claire raved about Zimmermann’s stuff and his mental approach, and the 22-year-old right-hander took another step toward winning a spot on the Nationals’ staff.

”It was fun,” Acta said. “Some of the guys on the field made that comment, too, that it’s fun to see a kid just grab the ball, be aggressive in the strike zone and keep the defense on their toes. It was pretty impressive. Electric stuff, actually.”

St. Claire compared Zimmermann to John Lannan, another pitcher whose unflinching approach frequently wins praise from the Nationals. Except Zimmermann is right-handed and probably has better stuff.

”You have to have the mental aspect of it. How does he handle competing for a job? Does he go harder and harder, which I think a lot of our bullpen members are doing right now?” St. Claire said. “All these young guys that pitched for us last year, they’re trying too much. With Zimmermann, you don’t see that. All he’s concerned about is pitching. And he executes everything.”

To this point, Zimmermann hasn’t allowed a base runner in 15 batters, has struck out six and has thrown 41 of his 54 pitches for strikes.

NATIONALS 6, METS 4

Washington scored three runs in the bottom of the first after Nick Johnson followed a Ryan Zimmerman double with a blast to right field. The Nationals didn’t hold the lead after Zimmermann left, though - Balester came in and gave up two home runs on high fastballs, including a three-run homer from Ramon Castro that sailed over the 35-foot wall in straightaway center field.

But the Nationals recovered, scoring three in the bottom of the sixth and getting three no-hit innings from Jason Bergmann, Garrett Mock and Jesus Colome to finish the game.

- Ben Goessling

TEMPERATURE CHECK

NICK JOHNSON [UP]

Second homer in as many games - this one sounded gone off the bat

COLLIN BALESTER [DOWN]

After Zimmermann’s impressive start, right-hander gave up four runs in fifth

RYAN ZIMMERMAN [UP]

Went 2-for-3, starting to show better opposite-field power than last year

QUOTABLE

”You didn’t have their ‘A’ team out there, but you still had some pretty good hitters out there that he overpowered. I think he’s really legit.”

- Nationals pitching coach Randy St. Claire on right-hander Jordan Zimmermann

THURSDAY’S WEATHER

Washington: Mostly sunny, 48 degrees

Viera: Sunny, 73 degrees

THREE-DAY SCHEDULE

Thursday: vs. Tigers in Lakeland, 1 p.m.

Friday: vs. Orioles in Fort Lauderdale, 1 p.m.

Saturday: vs. Mets in Port St. Lucie, 1 p.m.

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