Saturday, February 28, 2009

A Few Minutes With Jordan Zimmermann

Funny and humble--two traits The African Queen and I enjoy seeing in others. One of those guys that's easy to root for. Perfect descriptions of Jordan Zimmermann--Our Washington Nationals top pitching prospect now being given the chance to make The Big League rotation coming out of Spring Training 2009. With a fastball that only topped out in the Mid-80's in High School, Jordan developed a mid-90's fastball in college at Division 3 (Non-Scholarship) Wisconsin-Stevens Point when he began to workout more vigorously.

Chosen in the second round of the 2007 draft by Washington--Our New Number 27 is being given a hard look at camp by Baseball Operations. Sohna and I chatted with this nice young man a few days ago after practice.

Unlike Destin Hood, who is here to get a feel of the Major Leagues, you are here with a purpose—to possibly make the team. How are things going so far for you? (SBF)

“It’s actually been a lot of fun. I am really excited to be here working with this group of guys. Certainly, I want to do the best I can, and whatever happens, happens.”

Where you surprised you moved so quickly through Washington’s system last year? (SBF)

“Yeah, kind of. They skipped me through Hagerstown and on to Potomac where I started out pretty good and they moved me up right away. I was excited it. My goal was to make AA (Harrisburg) last year. And I ended up being there for 3/4th of the season. I met my goal early and, of course, I had to switch my goals to making it to The Bigs. But it never happened, so hopefully I will get the chance this year.”

What did you learn coming out of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (Division 3 Baseball) and coming to the pros? (SBF)

“I was really nervous going up to Vermont (Low A Ball). And as soon as I got there, I had three or four guys welcoming me. It relaxed me to be accepted right away. It made it easier going there and playing ball. And it turned out to be a lot of fun and a good entry point into professional ball.”

Everyone changes, adapts, gets better to advance in this game. How have you changed as a pitcher from college to now? (SBF)

“I have been working on my changeup. That is the biggest thing. I have better command. I have the pitch down, but I still have to tweak that and a few other things here and there. But it’s close to being ready to go. Another very important thing is learning how to get hitters out day in and day out. In college, I was throwing in D-3, so I could just throw fastballs past guys. They wouldn't catch up to it. Here, I have to mix all my pitches, otherwise they will blow my pitches past me.”

Speaking of which, we saw you throw batting practice the other day and you did quite well against Ryan Zimmerman and other top hitters on this team? (The African Queen)

“It’s a great experience here facing The Big League guys and knowing how I match up against them. There is no better way to improve and judge yourself. I thought I did well the other day and I can’t wait to get out there in a real game and see how I do. (This chat took place on 2/23—two days before Jordan threw two shutout innings against The Detroit Tigers).”

“They (hitters) are trying to get into the swing of things and I am trying to get into the swing of things. I need to get all my kinks worked out. Everybody is trying to get better.”

But it’s got to be a challenge to face those guys now like Ryan and striking them out like that? (The African Queen)

“Yeah, but I was just working on my stuff—trying to hit the corners. And when you do that it’s tougher for the hitters to get hits.”

When you were playing Division 3 Ball, were you surprised in being drafted so high? (SBF)

“I don’t know. I had an agent. He filled me in and told me to expect to go somewhere in rounds 2 through 5. And when I got picked in the second round—that was good.”

Where you a later bloomer—why you ended up playing at Wisconsin-Stevens Point? (SBF)

“I don’t know if I was a late bloomer, or that I just started to lift weights more, take my training more seriously (laughing) after I got to college.”

You did move quickly through the system last year, and knowing how highly Washington thinks of you—were you surprised to be given this opportunity to win a spot in the 2009 Rotation in DC? (SBF)

“No, in being a top prospect, I expected it. I really did expect to get a chance at Spring Training. I am hoping I can stick through the entire time and not get sent down. We shall see (smiling).”

Randy St.Claire is very high on you (SBF)

“He’s been terrific. He’s told me how to grip my changeup better. And how to slow my body down (in delivery) if I am rushing too fast. He tells me to slow down, relax, be myself.”

Early in camp it’s more about getting baseball ready. What do expect in your early outings on the mound—when you are only going to pitch two innings or less? (SBF)

“Hopefully, not go out there and get shelled!! (Laughing—Zimmermann again showing humility). But, I will work on just getting all my pitches down, hitting the spots and finding a rhythm on the mound.”

What are your new goals now as Spring Training progresses? (SBF)

“My goal right now is to break with the team. That is my main goal right now—I guess.”

Would you be disappointed if you didn’t? (SBF)

“No, if I ended up in Syracuse (AAA ball), I wouldn’t be mad at all. I know I am going to get my chance sometime this year. So, if not now, it’s just a matter of when.”

With that answer our chat with Jordan Zimmermann ended. He is very affable and enjoyable in person. And from his work on the mound so far early in camp--a serious competitor against opposing hitters.

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