Tuesday, August 03, 2010
Fine Tuning Jordan Zimmermann
On Sunday, August 1st, Jordan Zimmermann made a significant step in his rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery in August 2009 on his right throwing elbow. Mike Rizzo reinstated J-Z to the active 40-Man Roster of Our Washington Nationals and optioned him to AAA Syracuse. Our General Manager insisting he will not call up Jordan to the Big League Roster until a full 12-months have passed since his operation. And definitely not before J-Zimm is fully healthy.
There is no question the 24-year old is a core player in Washington's near and long term future. Last week, Nats320 sat down with Nationals Pitching Coach Steve McCatty to find out how close Jordan Zimmermann is to returning to The Major Leagues in 2010--what Steve McCatty terms the fine tuning portion of Jordan's recovery.
Nats320: Jordan Zimmermann is a young guy and is probably eager to get back on the field. Everyone seems to be trying to slow him down in his recovery. Is he rushing himself?
McCatty: Like all guys, he feels healthy after having major surgery on his elbow. And he’s in a hurry to get back, but it takes time. You have got to make sure that he’s 100% healthy. Everyone is saying he’s pitching innings down there (in the minors), but those innings are not as stressful as these innings would be in the Big Leagues. I had the chance to see him pitch the other day (July 26th) when he was at Hagerstown and his velocity was good. The ball was up a little bit that day and there were a few errors mixed in there, but he’s getting closer all the time.
Nats320: Surgery, whether it’s Tommy John, or another type of operation, has improved over time. It’s better, more efficient now. Jordan Zimmermann is less than a year out from having his--is it still too soon?
McCatty: I can’t tell you that. You would have to ask Lee Kuntz (head trainer) or someone like that. But it’s usually 12 to 13 to 18 months before someone is fully recovered. You could fall anywhere in that time frame, say in 12 months, and not be any better than 18 to be fully recovered. So I can’t tell you what his time frame is? He feels good. The velocity was good and it’s just now getting out there, pitching, and finding his location.
Nats320: You probably saw him pitch last spring (2009) during his rookie year at Spring Training, but you weren’t with the Major League Club early on in the season.
McCatty: That’s right.
Nats320: In his first game here at Nationals Park, Jordan Zimmermann threw a 96MPH fastball and his quote after the game was: ‘Wow! I’ve never thrown that hard before in my life.’ He’s throwing that hard, consistently, right now in rehab. Is that unusual?
McCatty: Not now. A lot of guys now who have Tommy John surgery are coming back and throwing harder than they’ve ever done before. The one guy these players talk about is Billy Wagner. He had it and his velocity picked up considerably. (At one time in his career, Wagner could consistently throw a baseball over 100 MPH). A lot of guys do. If he (Jordan) comes back just to what he was before the surgery, we are going to be real happy. And he is throwing the ball good. But it’s just something in which you must take your time. You can’t rush it. Even though we’ve had a few things going on here (on the Major League Staff), we can’t rush him. You have to let him get his legs back under him, pitch some non-stressful innings and get his work in. When he is ready and “Rizz” makes the decision for him to come back, that’s when he will be back.
Nats320: Do you feel he is close to being ready?
McCatty: Well, his changeup is still a little bit firmer than it should be. His velocity is real close. He’s throwing the ball inside real well. The breaking ball is not as consistent right now as it was when I saw him throw a simulated game here. And that’s just all a part of just being out there, getting back on the mound, and pitching off of that mound on a regular basis.
Nats320: But based on what you saw from him in person at Hagerstown, compared to what you saw of Jordan Zimmermann last year, he’s recovering with everything in tact?
McCatty: Absolutely. I think where he is at, velocity wise, is really close as to what he was last year. And I did see him one day throw some really good curve balls and some really good sliders. That’s all still there. He hasn’t lost it. It’s now just getting it on that continuous basis to get him ready to be on a Major League mound.
Nats320: I sort of compare him to Josh Johnson on The Florida Marlins. He came back from Tommy John surgery and was much better than he was before the operation.
McCatty: A lot of guys do. I am thinking about having Tommy John surgery to see if I can make a comeback (laughing very hard)!! But seriously, for a lot of guys that happens that way. They do come back a little stronger than before because they (the doctors) have done so many of them. They know how to do it right. The doctors have pretty much fine tuned the procedure. And very few of them (pitchers) don’t come back better than they were before. But he’s (Zimmermann) is coming along great and it’s now just a matter of getting more innings under his belt and getting his strength back up.
With that final answer, the Jordan Zimmermann portion of Nats320's Conversation with Steve McCatty concluded and we turned to a different subject matter. Another interesting chat with Washington's always knowledgeable Pitching Coach that will be coming up in the near future on Nats320.
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