Satisfied with extension, Zimmermann focused on '14
Ace of Nationals' staff in 2013 setting sights on another 200-plus inning season
VIERA, Fla. -- Chat with right-hander Jordan Zimmermann these days, and the last thing he wants to talk about is getting a long-term extension from the Nationals. As he puts it, he is more focused on getting ready for the 2014 season.
But with Reds right-hander Homer Bailey signing a six-year, $105 million contract recently, one wonders if Zimmermann will nab a similar deal. Zimmermann points out that he recently signed a two-year extension worth $24 million.
"I really didn't think about [Bailey]. I'm obviously happy for him. It's well deserving," Zimmermann said on Friday afternoon. "I'm locked up for two years and happy to be here for two years. What he does has no effect on me."
Zimmermann and the Nats have been talking about a long-term deal since last year, and he has often said he will not give the team a discount.
Asked why he recently accepted the two-year extension, Zimmermann said, "The long-term deal wasn't the right deal. It just didn't work out. They came to us with a two-year deal. Let's get this out of the way, so we don't have to worry about arbitration for the next two years. We can just focus on baseball. We felt it was right, and I think it was fair for both sides, and we got the deal done."
Zimmermann was the ace of Washington's pitching staff in 2013, winning a team-leading 19 games, reaching 200 innings and being invited to his first All-Star Game. Zimmermann said the defense behind him and the run support he received were the reasons for his big year.
Zimmermann's best outing came on April 26, when he pitched a one-hit shutout against the Reds. He needed just 91 pitches to complete the game. Zimmermann struck out four batters, walked just one and induced 12 ground-ball outs. He started the game by retiring 12 of the first 13 hitters he faced. No Reds runner reached scoring position throughout the contest.
When he first came into the league in 2009, Zimmermann thought too much about strikeouts, which affected his pitch count. But after having Tommy John surgery that year, he developed a new pitching philosophy: A groundout is just as valuable as a strikeout.
"When I came up, I tried to strike everyone out. I was out of the zone and throwing 80 pitches in four innings," Zimmermann said. "I would scratch my head and wonder, 'Would I be able to make it to the sixth?' After I had Tommy John surgery, I thought to myself, 'The best in the game hit .300, so they are going to get themselves out seven out of 10 times.' That's the way I thought about it. The chances of me getting this guy out are pretty good."
Zimmermann's goal this year is to pitch at least 200 innings again, but this time, he will work under new manager Matt Williams. Zimmermann likes the way Williams is running Spring Training. He points out that Williams is methodical and the players are consistently busy working out on the field.
"We are going to get our work done. We are going to do it crisp and clean, and we get out of there," Zimmermann said. "He is really organized. He has everything planned out a couple of days in advance. I'm among those guys that don't like to go out and figure out what I'm doing. I like to know a few days in advance."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.