Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Jordan Zimmermann--ESPN ZONE APPEARANCE
Monday afternoon--May 18th brought The Fledgling Mayor Of NatsTown to The ESPN Zone in Downtown, Washington DC. Stepping in as an emergency replacement for Scott Olsen undergoing rehab for shoulder tendinitis--Jordan Zimmermann was at the DC Restaurant to answer Questions & Answers from Radio Broadcaster Charlie Slowes and about 30 Fans in attendance.
This was the first of the monthly "MEET & GREETS" that have been scheduled IN-SEASON since Baseball returned to The Nation's Capital in 2005.
With that here we go with the entire transcript from yesterday's appearances by Jordan Zimmermann and Charlie Slowes at The ESPN ZONE. As usual--it's long but complete and accurate.
Charlie: Welcome Jordan Zimmermann who is doing some pinch hitting duties here. I am sure Jordan was in the plans to do one of these Q & A’s, but with Scott Olsen coming up with an shoulder injury the other day, he’s scheduled for his first rehab session today, so Jordan wasn’t very far away. In fact, they are only one or two lockers away in the clubhouse. Of course Jordan Zimmermann knew he was going to make the club during spring training. When did you find out?
JZ: “I think it was a week or two before spring training was over. (Randy) St.Claire took me to the dugout and said ‘you are the 5th starter but we are going to send you up to Syracuse for two weeks because we don’t need but four pitchers for the first two weeks.’ So, I went up to Syracuse and pitched one game up there and the second game I was supposed to pitch got rained out. I ended up throwing a simulated game and then I came to DC.”
Charlie: What was your reaction when he told you had made the club? You certainly pitched well enough. You only had the one sub par outing during spring training when you faced The Cardinals and I know you were sick going into that one. And you didn’t want to use that as an excuse. The point was you were terrific but you weren’t on the 40-Man Roster so the (The Nationals) had the luxury of starting you a little bit later so they could make other roster moves and bring you in when they needed the 5th spot. And I guess maybe control the total amount of innings and pitches you will throw for the year. Even if you were going to pitch at Syracuse it wouldn’t be the same as a Big League Game.
JZ: “Yeah, he (St.Claire) pulled me aside and said: ‘come with me.’ I didn’t really know what to expect I might be sent down or I was getting good news. He told me the good news and I was really excited. My heart dropped a little bit. I started to get on the phone and call all my family.”
Charlie: Most guys when they get the call to the Big Leagues it’s pretty sudden. They started the season in the Minor Leagues. They are having their year and somebody gets hurt. And they are now a last minute call up—trying to get from one place to another—on the same day maybe. More so for a position player to be able to play that night. Or a starter if he is scheduled to pitch. A reliever is like an everyday player. He needs to get there because he might be used in a game that night. You situation was different. They counted the days out. They told you when you were going to pitch. So you can call everybody, everybody can buy their plane tickets, book their hotels and it’s all paid for and done. And then The Nationals get the rainout against The Philadelphia Phillies. So you had everyone coming into town to visit you and see you pitch and they are all scheduled to be there one day early and leave.
JZ: “Yeah, I was supposed to pitch on the 19th, it was a Sunday. I had a lot of people who were coming in. And they were going to leave Monday Morning. Then we got the rainout and we got pushed back to the 20th on that Monday, so I had a handful of people who had to fly back Monday morning that couldn’t see me pitch but I still had a good crowd of 20 to 25 people that were able to stick around.”
Charlie: Not only did he have to wait all that time and other folks had to wait to see him pitch, but then as many of you who were there can attest—it rained again that night. We had a long rain delay and the game didn’t start until 9:15PM. For two hours and 10 minutes you were all geared up, your days’ prepped, you eat on schedule, and you are ready to go for 7:05. Now what was that like having to wait another two hours to wait it out and maybe thinking we might not play at all?
JZ: “I was ready to go and they said there was this big rain cloud coming. It started raining and it got pushed back a few hours. I just sat around in the locker room and tried to stay as calm as possible. I kept on thinking the whole time that it was going to get canceled and be pushed back another day. Then I would only have four our five people watching me. It was a good thing we got it in and good we got a win.”
Charlie: And if you think he was pumped up once the game started—a cold wet, rainy and nasty night—pretty much like a lot of the nights we’ve had so far this season. And if you think he was a little revved up by the time he threw that first pitch? Boom!! 95 MPH. Second Pitch Vroom!! 95MPH. third Pitch 96MPH!! You told us you had a little bit of adrenaline rush when you finally got out there to start that game?
JZ: “Definitely. I had never thrown that hard in my life. I didn’t really know where it was coming from. Yeah, my adrenaline was pumping. I was just happy to be out there on the mound and get that first pitch across for a strike.”
Question: I was at spring training and I saw your performance at Jupiter (Florida)—that was really amazing against The Marlins. My question is you hear a lot about catchers calling pitches and I was wondering to the catcher’s influence over your performance. And have you ever had a start either here or in college, wherever—that you felt like the catcher may have adversely affected your day—if he had only called a different pitch. Or conversely—the catcher calling the game has actually helped you?
JZ: “We go over the game plan before the game starts with St.Claire and with whoever is catching that night. We go over the game plan and then go out to the field and try to be on the same page. If I don’t like something he’s putting down, I will shake him off and go with what I want to throw. Usually, we are on the same page. If we are a little off the page, he will come out and talk to me and ask me what I am thinking. I tell him what I like to throw and what I am feeling comfortable with. When it comes down to it, I am the one throwing the balls, so I think I should be the one who takes responsibility for the pitch.”
Charlie: How much of game plan before the game might change during play depending on what is working for you? And do you look at the hitter’s swings? If someone is swinging late on the fastball, are you still going to come back with the hard stuff?
JZ: “We definitely watch the hitters during the game. St.Claire watches them. If he sees something between innings, he will tell me. This hitter is doing this so many we should try this instead. It always switches during the game and that when we change the game plan a little bit and go with something else.”
Charlie: So all that information beforehand is how they did against someone else. Or, if you have faced them before, which in this case probably has not happened yet?
JZ: “St.Claire showed me how to watch video. This is the first time I have watched video or done any stuff like that. He told me about some pitchers that pitch like me and I need to watch how they pitch to these other teams. That has been what I have been doing lately.”
Charlie: They have even a little room around the dugout so you can go watch the other team’s at-bats, if you need to see something from a previous inning or last at-bat for a hitter.
JZ: “We have a couple of computers that you can use between innings to see if the pitches were on the corner for a strike or a ball. Or if the hitter is showing something we just didn’t see and we can go in there and take a look at it.”
Question: As a kid growing up, who was your favorite player?
JZ: “I really don’t have a favorite player. I just really liked watching The Brewers. I was a big Brewers Fan growing up. I liked watching The Braves too with (John) Smoltz and (Tommy) Glavine and those types of guys. But my favorite team was The Brewers, not a favorite player. I really liked watching The Brewers as much as possible.”
Charlie: Are you the most famous person to come out of Wisconsin-Stevens Point? I know Terry Porter (former NBA Player) played for The Portland Trailblazers for most of his career. Most recently, was a coach in the NBA.
JZ: “Terry Porter came out of there. A couple of football players that went to the NFL. And there are only three baseball players that have ever got drafted out of Stevens Point—none of them ever made it to The Major Leagues.”
Charlie: You played high school football and were a wide receiver?
JZ “Yes, I played football and basketball.”
Charlie: I am told your basketball team was pretty good. You guys won a state championship?
JZ: “We went to state by junior and senior year and took second and fourth place—something like that.”
Charlie: When you talked about The Brewers you ended up watching growing up, who were the key players at that time?
JZ: “(Paul) Molitor, (Robin) Yount, I remember watching (Pat) Listach play. (Rookie of The Year in 1992—Charlie). Yup. I remember watching a lot of the good Brewer Teams.”
Charlie: So meeting Pat Listach in spring training was probably a big thrill for you?
JZ: “Yes, it was nice to meet him. (Marquis) Grissom was there for a little while. It was very nice to meet those guys.”
Charlie: That was a pretty good Brewers team. Hall of Famers when you are talking about Yount and Molitor.
JZ: “They were all unbelievable players and it was really fun to watch them.”
Charlie: Did you know which was your sport when you were playing three of them growing up?
JZ: “I thought it was going to be basketball. My buddies and me got connected in the 5th or 6th grade playing basketball every weekend and during the summer. We were in tournaments and stuff like that. I thought basketball would be my main sport, but I started playing baseball and I was pretty good at playing baseball. I went to college at Stevens Point playing baseball and football. I decided not to play football at the last second and go with baseball. That all worked out, I guess.”
Charlie: Basketball, what position?
JZ: “I really didn’t have a position. We had three or four guys that could bring the ball up and everyone could shoot it. So, I really didn’t have a position.”
Question: In the extra inning game the other day when Manny emptied the bench, did Manny come down to you and say get ready you might be going to right field?
JZ: “No, I think that might be (Shairon) Martis before me. He’s a little better. We both had our cleats on ready to go. I was guessing that Martis was going to get the call before I was.”
Question: So are you admitting Martis is a better hitter than you?
JZ: “Right now he is a little better. But I hope to be able to come around.”
Charlie: You did DH in college when you didn’t pitch?
JZ: “Yes I did.”
Charlie: Martis is off to a good start with the bat and he can run a little bit too.
JZ: “Yes, he is pretty fast. I’ve never raced him but I am sure it would be a pretty good race.”
Question: At what points did scouts start showing up at Steven-Point?
JZ: “I would have to say during my first year. There were a couple of area scouts that came during the year. And then I played in the Northwoods League over in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. They have teams in Madison, Wausau and a couple of teams in Minnesota. I played over there and did really, really well. There were scouts that came to those games. The word got out. By my junior year there had to be 10 scouts at every game.”
Charlie: Was there interest in you in High School?
JZ: “I got one letter from The University Of Minnesota and that was it. I tapped out at 85 MPH in high school, so I guess I was a late bloomer.”
Charlie: Did you do anything to physically change or was it just a matter of growing up?
JZ: “I think it was just getting into the weight room was the biggest thing. I didn’t really lift weights in high school. I really didn’t have time between baseball, football and basketball practice every night—so there wasn’t much time to lift. Then I went to college and started to lift and the miles per hour on my fastball increased.”
Charlie: “Was that more thinking football with the weights to get bigger and stronger than for baseball?
JZ: “I decided not to play football as soon as I got to college. So I really didn’t go to the very first practice or anything. When I got the weight program for baseball it was really intense and I really got after it—that really helped (me).”
Question: What has been your big ‘Oh Wow!’ Big League Ballplayer moment?
JZ: “I guess going to the stadium and seeing 30 or 40,000 people cheering and going crazy. With that I’ve come to realize I am in the Big Leagues and these are the biggest crowds I have ever seen in my life. When I see the crowds and all the people that’s when I know and that’s when I think that I am.”
Charlie: When you faced The Cardinals I don’t know if I put the whammy on you when (Albert) Pujols was coming up—this is probably a moment with Pujols a lock Hall Of Famer—you see him coming into the box—do you think outside of what you have to do—Wow It’s Albert Pujols.
JZ: “He stepped in there and I was thinking I just need to make a good pitch—make good pitches here and hope I can get him out. I fell behind in the count. (Jesus) Flores was set up in the other batters box and I thought What In The World Is He Doing Over There? (Laughter) I am thinking to myself, I am not going to throw there and walk him. There is no one on base. So I decided to throw him a fastball on the corner. And Flores comes to tell me the next inning—the coaches wanted me to walk Pujols. (More Laughter) He should have come out and told me that—just walk him here—be careful instead of trying to go after him.”
Charlie: You and I were talking earlier before we began—the first inning has been a rough spot for you in your starts. You’ve either missed over the plate or been behind in counts. During that first inning you have not been able to locate exactly where you want to. And I asked you if you find that at this level, as compared to The Minor Leagues, if you make a mistake near the plate do they often swing and miss it and you said no they don’t.”
JZ: You can’t make many mistakes up here. If you do and leave stuff up in the zone, it’s going to get crushed. That’s what has been happening in the first inning most of the time. I just made a couple of not very smart pitches and left it up in the zone—base hits and home runs—and all of a sudden you look up on the scoreboard and you are getting beat 3-0 or 5-0 and you have to battle the rest of the game.”
Charlie: Randy Knorr (Bullpen Coach) told me a story about when he played and was catching a rookie pitcher. It was one of his first starts in the Big Leagues, maybe his first start. And the umpire squeezed him to death. Balls right down the middle to established players that didn’t swing—it was a ball. He (Randy) would ask the umpire and the umpire wouldn’t say anything. And when the pitcher was taken out of the game, he was walking off the mound—and the umpire yells: “Why to go rookie—it will get better!!”
So I guess that leaves me to ask you if you feel like, and we are not criticizing anybody—nobody is writing this one down for their blogs—has there been some pitches you thought were strikes and when you went back to look at the replay you realized—man I didn’t get that call? Or this one? Or that one?
JZ: “Yeah, I had a couple of pitches I thought were right on the corner to Chase Utley yesterday (Sunday, May 17th), he called them a ball. After I was done, I went in and (Scott) Olsen said ‘He’s really squeezing you today and you are going to have that with these umps. They tend to be hard on rookies.’ And then (Austin) Kearns comes in and says: ‘Boy, he was hard on you today.’ Yeah, I said. I thought they were some pretty good pitches. Kearns said he does that to rookie pitchers. I can only hope for the best next season.”
Charlie: That’s tough—we get mad upstairs doing the game. There’s a pitch at the knees, oh where was it? How was that a ball? Where did it miss? How did it miss?
Question: I am going to guess that one of your favorite hobbies is fishing?
JZ: “Yes, fishing and I like to hunt. All my friends back home played video games and goofed around all day long—but I like to hunt and fish most of the time.”
Charlie: Fishing you can sit around and talk a bit. But hunting not a lot of talking going on when you are hunting. What do you like to hunt?
JZ: “White Tail Deer.”
Charlie: You have the hunting clothes, the whole nine yards?
JZ: “The camo—we get out there and try to be as quiet as possible and wait for the big one to walk by.”
Charlie: And what time of day do you have to be out there?
JZ: “Half hour or 45 minutes before it starts getting light out. They usually come out in the morning and night. You just have to be there at the right time.”
Question: Is pitching in the Big Leagues what you thought it would be. Is it harder than you expected? What have you found easier than expected?
JZ: “It’s all I expected. I thought I could get away with more pitches like we talked about before. I tend to make a couple of mistakes here and there in the Minor Leagues and the guys did’t hit them. But up here, you make a mistake it’s going to get crushed most of the time. You don’t have that in the Minor Leagues—so that is one of the things I thought would be a little easier. But for the most part, I am just up here to have fun and try to win ball games—and do my best every time out on the field. Just try to work as hard as possible and just try to confuse them.”
Charlie: How much of every day is a learning experience for you?
JZ: “Pretty much every day—all day long! (laughter) I am trying to learn things, keep my ears open and listen to what people say—take in little things every day and hopefully by the midway of the season—I will have things figured out and be on top of my game again.”
Charlie: Do you learn by watching or a combination of watching and asking other guys about say starting pitching like Scott Olsen and John Lannan about game day preparation? What they like to do?
JZ: “No, I pretty much watch and keep my ears open. I pretty much ask Lannan and those guys who have been up here a few years about what I am wearing and when I have to be here. That’s the only thing I ask those guys.”
Charlie: Different dress code in the Big Leagues right?
JZ: “Definitely. The first time wearing suits on the road. I’ve never had to do that in the Minor Leagues. That’s one of the biggest things is wearing suits for me. I am not one of those guys who likes to dress up a lot.”
Charlie: Your first start here it was cold and rainy and you went out in your short sleeves. You don’t pitch with your sleeves no matter what?
JZ: “In my draft video it was snowing and blowing and I was out there in short sleeves. There is something about it that I just can’t throw with sleeves on.”
Question: Speaking of the weather, has pitching in heat and humidity—like in Los Angeles recently, affected you since you seem more comfortable in colder climates?
JZ: “It doesn’t affect me that much. When I am out there pitching, the heat really takes a toll on me. It usually wears me down faster than when it’s 50 or 60 degrees. The 90-100 degree heat usually takes a toll on any starting pitcher in getting into the later innings.”
Charlie: Is there anything you can do to get use to it? I know that they tell some athletes if you are going to be in the heat—you have to be out in it for a few days earlier to get use to it. And drink more water a few days before you pitch to stay hydrated.
JZ: “I guess you can do that but it’s tough when you are in Washington and you have to go over there (next city) and pitch the next day. When that’s the first time in the heat like that—you can’t really go outside and get use to it. You get in late, go to sleep that night, wake up and it’s time to go pitch.”
Charlie: Well, that weather is coming here. In June and July, you will think it’s hot here and we will go down to play The Marlins the first week of July and you will find out that you can’t keep your hand dry to grip the ball. We can’t even keep the microphones dry there.
Question: I was wondering if they would ever start spelling your name right on your bats? (Zimmermann, not Zimmerman)
JZ: “Yeah, I know—Wally (Mike Wallace—Clubhouse Manager) got my first order of bats in and they only had one ‘N’ at the end. Wally what is this? I told them two ‘NN’s’. So hopefully, the next batch that comes in will have two ‘NN’s’ on them.”
Charlie: I feel for Wally, he’s been having a tough first part of the season (laughter). And it has nothing to do with him. (The NATINALS JERSEYS). All he needs to do is check the players name and you have to get that right.
Question: When you were out in LA and were down after the first inning (6-0), how did that make you feel? How did you adjust?
JZ: “I felt terrible!! (laughter) I just told myself this is a 0-0 ballgame and go out there and try to battle as long as I can here with the pitch count that I have. Go as long as I can and try to get quick innings and try to give the team the chance to win. And that’s what I try to do each time out.”
Charlie: Was yesterday (May 17th) similar for you from that regard. You knew you threw along of pitches in the first inning?
JZ: “Yes, it was pretty much the same thing. It’s terrible to give up three runs in the first inning and put our hitters in a hole like that where they have to battle their way out of it. And they came back and scored three the next inning. Then I was fine for a couple of innings but in the 4th inning I made a couple more mistakes and gave up a couple more runs.”
Charlie: Well, if you are a starting pitcher, the offense of this club has to be impressive. You know that if you make a mistake, there is a chance they can come back and get it back for you.
JZ: “With the offense we have, they are going to put up six, seven or eight runs a game. As a pitching staff we need to just figure out what we are doing wrong. Go out there, be confident and throw strikes—get hitters out. We have to try to do our best and I think if we can do that—with the offense we have—we are going to be just fine.”
Charlie: I know these folks are ready for some autographs. So I will ask the final question. These people are ready to see you win a lot of games over the years in that uniform—any advice you would give to tonight’s staring pitcher (Ross Detwiler—making his first MLB Start—May 18th)?
JZ: “Go out there and have fun—throw strikes. You are going to gets runs scored, so just go out there, have fun, throw strikes and everything will be just fine—if you do all that.”
Charlie: How well do you know Ross?
JZ: “Pretty well. I was with him for two spring trainings. We hung out when we were both in Potomac together. So I know him pretty well.”
Charlie: It will be like you are throwing with him tonight—won’t it?
JZ: “Yes, definitely. I can’t wait to see him out there and hope he gets a win so he can get the pie in the face at the end of the game (Customary teasing). (laughter)
Charlie: That’s right!! Pie in the face when you win your first one!!
And those final words ended the Q & A at The ESPN Zone in Downtown Washington, DC. Jordan Zimmermann then signed autographs and took pictures with many of those on hand for the hour-long event.
Additionally--Jordan signed the leather Washington Nationals recliner that will be given away during the last ESPN Get Together in September. Like in 2008, each Nationals Participan signs the chair throughout the season and one lucky fan will take it home as the 2009 season winds down.
The Next “Meet & Greet” at ESPN Zone will be June 24th when The Boston Red Sox invade The Nation’s Capital for the first time since 1971. Player appearance to be announced at a later date.
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