If you didn’t get to watch the game, or weren’t one of the dozens of people at the park yesterday, Jordan Zimmermann looked pretty impressive. Unflappable may be a better word. The 2 hour rain delay didn’t seem to be a problem, for him at least. He was solid, and even in the inning where he actually gave up runs, he almost got out of a no-out triple to Chipper. Even after giving up the HR to Diaz, he seemed calm, and settled down to pitch two more great innings. The line looks nice – 6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 K. How about 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA to start out a career? But that’s not what caught my eye.
I liked this: 1st inning – 6 pitches, 3rd inning – 10 pitches, 5th inning – 13th pitches, 6th inning – 8 pitches. He only struck out three, he was pitching to contact, attacking the zone blah blah blah. Here’s the big thing: he wasn’t trying to nibble the corners. It seems that whenever a young pitcher comes up, he’s so worried about the big leaguers being able to hit him, that he can’t throw strikes. But Zimmermann went right after the hitters. He had confidence in his stuff, and for the most part was rewarded. There wasn’t much more you could expect out of his first outing, a success all the way for him.
The bullpen looked good, too. 3 innings without a run, and two of the four guys were part of the big callup yesterday. Everyone looked good, but most importantly Hanrahan was able to get 3 outs. That shot of confidence was probably very important to his ability to be effective in the near future. He had some real zip on his fastball, and despite some issues controlling the breaking stuff, he looked good. It’s gotta be a shot in the arm to this team to be able to win a squeaker like that, without ever surrendering the lead once they had it.
I’ve mentioned this before – I really think the bullpen blowup was less about truly blowing it up and more about changing the team’s attitude. If you don’t perform, you are outta here, no excuses. But if they really wanted to blow it up, 4 of the 5 frontline bullpen guys wouldn’t have stayed. The only top guy who went down was Saul Rivera, and he needs to work on mechanics or something, because he has been reliable all his career before this spring. Meanwhile, though Wells and Mock both pitched last night, they aren’t the lead guys. Mock was only in because there was a delay during the 8th. But the go-to relievers haven’t changed – it’s still Hanrahan, Beimel, Tavares (who started warming up once Harahan let a runner get on) and Hinckley. The only change is the lack of Saul, and, hopefully, the attitude and performace of the group as a whole.