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Seriously? One of baseball's best pitchers, who has shown outward signs of being injured, might ask out of his first All-Star Game appearance because of a stiff neck?
Before vilifying Zimmermann, though, let's get our facts straight. The right-hander has indeed been dealing with a lingering neck injury for nearly two months. Davey Johnson has mentioned it more than once following his starts, and Zimmermann himself had acknowledged it prior to last night's game in Philadelphia.
Has it negatively affected his pitching performance? On the surface, it certainly doesn't seem like it. Zimmermann has put together some absolutely dominant starts over the last month, including an eight-inning, 112-pitch gem against the Rockies on June 20.
But Johnson has been mindful of the ailment, and on a few occasions hasn't let his young ace go as deep into games as he might normally have, including last night's 79-pitch effort.
If anything, the Nationals seem to be taking precautionary measures with Zimmermann's neck more than reactionary measures. And now the right-hander himself seems to be agreeing with that course of action.
"I'd rather be healthy for the second half than pitch in [the All-Star Game]," Zimmermann told reporters last night. "I'd like to pitch in it, but I'm not going to go up there and pitch an inning and have to battle in the second half."
In some ways, this sounds awfully familiar to Ian Desmond's predicament one year ago. The shortstop was on fire in early July when he earned his first career All-Star selection, then surprisingly pulled out of the game because of a lingering oblique strain.
At the time, people questioned how seriously Desmond could have been hurt given how well he was playing through this injury. Then he landed on the disabled list shortly after the All-Star break and missed a month. Suddenly, the cautious route didn't seem like an overreaction.
We don't know whether Zimmermann's neck will become more of a concern over the season's second half, but both he and the club appear to have at least some concern about it. And he's right to declare the rest of this season is more important than one inning in an exhibition game, no matter how much attention that exhibition game gets.
It won't necessarily look good, but Zimmermann would be justified in skipping the All-Star Game.