Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Inactive Zimmermann enjoys experience
NEW YORK — Jordan Zimmermann would rather be pitching tonight in the All-Star Game than watching from the NL dugout, relegated to spectator due to a lingering neck injury. But make no mistake, the Nationals right-hander is happy to be here and is soaking in every moment of the experience.
"Just being in the clubhouse around these guys," he said. "You play against them, but to hang out with them and meet some new guys, it's going to be fun. And then obviously the Home Run Derby and the game are going to be fun to watch."
Selected to his first Midsummer Classic after going 12-4 with a 2.58 ERA through the season's first half, Zimmermann had to ask off the active roster when team doctors told him he needed to rest his neck for a few days to risk further injury.
It's still considered a minor injury, one Zimmermann insists he can pitch through, but one that is requiring more treatment each passing day.
"It's just like you have a kink in your neck every single day," he said. "Every morning, I wake up and it's stiff and sore. As the day goes on, it gets better. That leads us to think it's just muscle. ... Once in a while, I feel it when I pitch. Or sometimes if there's a guy on first and I've got to look over, I can feel it a little bit. But nothing I can't pitch through."
Though he's only watching the festivities in New York this week instead of participating in them, Zimmermann felt it was important he attend the All-Star Game and partake in all of the events, joining teammate Bryce Harper and manager Davey Johnson on the NL side.
"I was planning on coming the whole time," he said. "We thought the best thing would be to take a little break here. I still wanted to come. Davey said he wanted me here. So I was happy for that."
What has Zimmermann most been looking forward to about his first All-Star experience? Spending time with fellow All-Stars from rival clubs, guys he doesn't normally get to talk to about pitching and life in the big leagues.
"All the pitchers," he said. "Clayton Kershaw is going to be a fun one to sit down with. Cliff Lee. Just all the pitchers, to hang out with them. ... I watched some of these guys in the minors coming up. Just to be here with them is a great honor."
The soft-spoken Zimmermann doesn't usually seek the spotlight, but he has become more and more well-known (and feared) within baseball circles. No longer overshadowed by Nationals rotation mates Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, the 27-year-old Wisconsin native is adjusting to the extra attention he now receives.
Answering the same questions over and over for 45 minutes from reporters at the All-Star Game might not be his idea of heaven, but Zimmermann knows it's a small price to pay in exchange for the first All-Star experience of his life.
"I think once I got to the big leagues, that was definitely a goal of mine," he said of being named an All-Star. "I think that's everyone's goal. And by the time they get to the big leagues, that's the next step: You'd like to make an All-Star Game. It's a great honor and I'm happy to be here."