Jordan Zimmermann, the Washington Nationals top prospect in 2009, is set to have his first bullpen session since reconstructive elbow surgery last summer. The 23-year-old is expected to throw 10-15 pitches from the mound Monday at Nationals camp, until now Zimmermann had been building arm strength throwing three days a week on flat ground.
Zimmermann scorched through the minor leagues after being drafted in 2007. In just over two minor league seasons he made 37 starts, posted a 15-5 record with a 2.81 ERA and 215 strikeouts in in 195.2 innings pitched. After only one start in Triple-AAA, Zimmermann took his arm to Washington and was in contention for the National League Rookie of the Year before an elbow injury forced him to receive season-ending Tommy John surgery.
With Zimmermann throwing his first bullpen session early next week, the righty is ahead of schedule. Tommy John surgery can keep pitchers off the field anywhere from 12-18 months, but according to General Manager Mike Rizzo, Zimmermann could be back on the mound as early as August. This would put his recovery time at about 13 months, good news for the hurler.
Zimmermann's ability to regain his once potential-filled form is crucial for the Nationals future plans. A one-two-three punch of Strasburg, Zimmermann, and Detwiler could potentially develop into one of the better starting rotations in the league if all three of them reach their full ability. Luckily for Zimmermann, his strength isn't his 94 mile-per-hour fastball, but his power slider and his devastating change-up. This means that while his arm-strength may take time to rebuild, he doesn't live and die on overpowering hitters but on deceiving them. In the long run the surgery may help Zimmermann because it will force him to learn how to pitch without his best stuff, a lesson that can serve him well throughout his career.
Speaking of arms, Cristian Guzman may have shown just how bad of a condition his is in. Adam Kilgore writes:
"Guzman ranged to his right to field a groundball hit by Donnie Murphy. His soft, errant throw pulled Adam Dunn off the base and led to an error. There is plenty of left before opening day arrives, but Guzman's throw was a bad sign for a player competing for a starting job, whether he thinks so or not. (And he doesn't; more later.)
"The first ball that was hit to him, he did a nice, crisp throw over there to first base," Riggleman said. "He looked real good. The ball to his right, it just looked like he was thinking, 'I'm not going to air this ball out.' For whatever reason he didn't want to really let it go. The result was, it's not a good throw."
Guzman entered camp with questions surrounding his arm strength, and so far none of those questions have had positive answers. If Guzman doesn't have the arm strength to field the position it will make the battle for shortstop between him and prospect Ian Desmond that much easier. Desmond is already killing the ball this spring, and Guzman may have just taken himself out of the race with his arm.