- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 24, 2013

VIERA, Fla. — D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray, in Florida for the weekend to attend the Washington Nationals’ Grapefruit League opener, discussed the area around Nationals Park on Sunday morning and said he’s pleased with what it has become.

The development around Nationals Park has been much slower than anticipated when the team opened the new ballpark in the spring of 2008, but there have been signs of movement lately. Residential buildings have opened and there is commercial and retail progress as well.

“That’s one of the things we’d hoped for in bringing the baseball team there,” Gray said. “I honestly feel that the development has moved more quickly than it otherwise would [if the park were not there]. I think the commercial development and retail development really has been facilitated by the baseball team.

“[And] there’s a lot more to come. We’ve got a movie theater, more eateries coming to the area, more people moving in and more residential development down there as well.”

Still, the inability of the area to truly come alive and thrive at any point in the past four years, due in large part to the recession, has been viewed by many as one of the main reasons the Nationals have yet to attract an MLB All-Star Game.

“I think it’s a possibility that it’s affecting it,” Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner said Thursday.”

Gray, who lauded the Nationals repeatedly for their 2012 season and what they’ve done to build their fan base in the District, said he thinks it’s “already a facility that should be able to attract the All-Star Game.”

“I don’t know what more we’d need to do, other than now have the track record of having a successful team,” he said. “I think we should be a prime candidate now.”

Zimmermann pleased with spring outing

Jordan Zimmermann got through three innings of work on 42 pitches, 26 of them strikes, in a sharp first outing of the spring as the Nationals tied the Marlins 2-2 in 10 innings.

The right-hander, who has been working on his change-up for several years, has resolved to use it more this spring in an effort to improve his trust of the pitch. Zimmermann threw it multiple times Sunday and noted a “good feel” for it.

While his fastball was clocked from 93 to 95 mph by scouts in the stands, his change-up was coming in at 83 to 84 mph, a good differential

“That’s perfect,” Zimmermann said. “Right where I want it.”

Zimmermann felt confident enough to use the pitch in a 2-0 count, but it was a ball, and he took the Bryan Petersen to 3-2 before walking him. In his final inning of work, though, Zimmermann threw one in a 1-1 count to Greg Dobbs and got him to roll it over to first base.

“I’m just trying to pick the right situation and try to throw it as much as possible,” he said.

Around the horn

Bryce Harper was 2 for 2 before a 66-minute rain delay ended most of the regulars’ days. Henry Rodriguez threw off a mound for the first time Sunday and said he felt “so-so.” Rodriguez, recovering from August elbow surgery, will throw again in two or three days. Christian Garcia (forearm strain) will be shut down for 10 days to two weeks, manager Davey Johnson said, in order to rest and heal before he’s re-evaluated.

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