VIERA, Fla. -- It's a difficult thing to explain, the "dead arm" sensation that so many pitchers experience during spring training, and Jordan Zimmermann struggled today to put into words what he felt five days previous when he was rocked by the Cardinals for eight runs in only three innings.
"The other day, it just didn't feel like it was coming out of my hand with any zip," the Nationals right-hander said. "Today, I was staying behind the fastball and getting a little extra zip on it."
Whatever the physiological difference was, the disparity in results was glaring. Zimmermann allowed just one earned run over 4 2/3 innings this afternoon against the Mets, striking out six in a solid, bounce-back effort at Space Coast Stadium.
"Jordan threw the heck out of the ball," manager Davey Johnson said. "Threw the ball great. ... That was a good outing."
Zimmermann ran his pitch count up to 82, the most he (or any other Nationals starter) has thrown this spring. He emerged still feeling strong and looking forward to increasing that number the next time he takes the mound.
"I think we'll go maybe 15 more pitches the next time out and be ready to go for the season," he said. "It's right where I want to be right now."
Zimmermann might have gone even deeper into this game if not for a laborious, 30-pitch, top of the first that was prolonged by a pair of miscues in the field: Chad Tracy couldn't corral a chopper to his right at third base, while Adam LaRoche surprisingly let a routine groundball roll right through his legs to bring home two runs.
Results aside, the Nationals were pleased with the manner in which Zimmermann pitched, especially on the heels of his disappointing start against St. Louis.
"That's the Jordan I know," catcher Wilson Ramos said. "Last time when I catch him, he threw a lot of pitches up in the zone. This time, a lot of pitches down in the zone. That's the point we want to be, throwing the ball down."