On Saturday evening, a significant portion of the Nationals' future took the mound in his first rehab assignment. Jordan Zimmermann, the 24 year-old right-hander and former second pick, made his first appearance of the 2010 season with the Potomac Nationals. After allowing leadoff hits in each of his two innings pitched, Zimmermann was able to settle down and finish his day unscathed. The righty, who posted a 4.63 ERA in 16 starts with the big league club last season, threw 16 strikes in 25 pitches and seemed to easily call upon the velocity that gave him so much promise. Zimmermann is recovering from Tommy John surgery, an operation he underwent last September to repair a torn elbow ligament. While the normal recovery plan predicts a 12 to 18 month rehab period, Zimmermann is far ahead of schedule and hopes to pitch in the majors in 2010. "It feels great," Zimmermann said when asked about his arm. "No pain, felt strong. Everything went well."
In a rotation that appears to have only two starters firmly entrenched (Stephen Strasburg, Livan Hernandez), a spot in the rotation is Zimmermann's for the taking. He will certainly have stiff competition from Jason Marquis, Scott Olsen, and Chien-Ming Wang when they return from the disabled list; however, Zimmermann is younger and has more potential than all of them on a team whose focus lies in the future rather than the present. Though his ERA and 3-5 record last year were unspectacular, the young pitcher struck out 9.1 batters per nine innings against just 2.9 walks over the same time period. If Zimmermann can recreate the form he displayed last season, he will no doubt have a spot on the major league roster.