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Zimmermann much better a year later

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Zimmermann much better a year later

After a start of six scoreless innings against the Mets back on July 19, Nats pitcher Jordan Zimmermann spoke to Mark Zuckerman about his season, now three years removed from Tommy John surgery.

"I definitely feel stronger another year after surgery," Zimmermann said.

"Last year was hit-or-miss. I didn't know how I was going to feel. But this whole year I've been feeling great. I haven't had any aches or pains. So, knock on wood, I hope that keeps going."

Zimmermann finished 2011 - his first full season back from having the procedure in August of 2009 with a team-best 3.18 ERA through 161.1 innings, a mark that ranked 21st in the majors and 10th in the National League. But he reached that number after having his worst stretch of the season right before he was shut down.

Zimmermann struggled over the course of his final eight starts and compiled a 4.49 ERA across those outings, a total of 46.1 innings or slightly more than a quarter of his season. Through that final six weeks Zimmermann saw his season ERA jump all the way from 2.66 to 3.18.

It is logical to conclude that based on Zimmermanns 2011 numbers, and his own statements, that he just wasnt the same pitcher at the end of last season as he was for the first three months. Fast forward to this season, and Zimmermann has pitched even better in the second half.

Zimmermann holds a 2.38 ERA through 151.0 innings at the moment, the best mark in the National League. He has risen to the top with a little help from his friends (an 8 ER drubbing of Ryan Vogelsong on Monday), but mainly due to a dominant run through July and August. In seven starts since the All-Star Break, Zimmermann is 4-1 with a 1.77 ERA. His only loss came on Tuesday when he allowed just one score to the Giants.

Zimmermann is 10.2 innings away from establishing a career high for a season, there is no telling how he will pitch from the 160 innings mark to 200 or beyond. But looking at how he faded towards the end of last year, and how different the trend has been this time around, further proves the Nationals right in shutting him down in favor of arm strength and endurance in the future.

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Nationals' Bryce Harper mashes monster homer on second pitch of spring training

Nationals' Bryce Harper mashes monster homer on second pitch of spring training

The Nationals played their first game of spring training today against the Mets. They won, but that's not nearly the biggest story of the day. It was Bryce Harper's first at-bat that stole the show. 

On just the second pitch he saw of spring training, from lefty Sean Gilmartin, Harper mashed a ginormous home run to right center field. MLB.com shared video of the bomb. 

According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Harper smacked the ball at least 400 feet. In his second at-bat, he hit a line-drive single on the first pitch. 

Let's just say it was an exciting start to the year for Harper, who won the 2015 NL MVP only to endure a let-down last season. As Castillo points out, the slugger hit .226 against left-handed pitchers in 2016. 

Harper enters spring training at 230 pounds, up 15 pounds of muscle from last year. 

“I just felt going into the offseason you want to get as strong as you can, try to maintain your weight the best you can and just do everything the right way,” he told the Post. 

MORE NATIONALS: Baker thinks DC sports teams can win a championship this year

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Nationals' Dusty Baker thinks Washington teams are positioned to win a championship this year

Nationals' Dusty Baker thinks Washington teams are positioned to win a championship this year

Nationals manager Dusty Baker is back for a second year and feeling optimistic for his Washington team. Spring training has begun in Florida and it has Baker thinking about how the Nats can create some excitement for local sports fans.

In an interview with American University’s WAMU radio station, Baker said D.C. wants to be a "city of champions.” Furthermore, he thinks it can be pulled off before the year ends.

"I came here to win a championship and you know I would love nothing more than to bring one to Washington. Washington, I didn’t know it before I got there, but it’s had a tough time getting out of the first round in a number of sports."

He projected the Nationals to bring home the next championship for the District, but he knows they have competition of late. 

"Washington Wizards are looking pretty good. I’m pulling for them first because their season ends before ours, so I’ve been really following them. The Capitals have a good thing going. I started watching the Redskins more this year.

"You know once it gets contagious in a city and you get a positive attitude throughout the city, then it transfers to the sports teams. So we want to be known as a city of champions, before the end of the year hopefully."

Baker has a reputation for bringing out the best in his teams, especially managing star players. He managed the San Francisco Giants for ten seasons before moving on to the Chicago Cubs, a team he managed for four seasons.

He's never won a World Series, but has taken a team to Game 7. He also finished third for the 2016 National League Manager of the Year award.

So, what are Baker’s steps for the Nationals to get that ultimate prize? A simple formula, really.

"I think that we’ve got to stay healthy, number one. We’re trying to fill the holes that we need to fill, and we’ve got to play," he said. "You know last year we were very close, we were one hit away or one play away or one pitch away from going to the next round against the Cubs."

While he says he came to win Washington a championship, he's also enjoying his time in the city. 

"I love D.C. Before that, San Francisco was my favorite town; that’s my home. But I tell you, D.C. is definitely in the running," he said. "I thought San Francisco had the best seafood, but man, you guys have the best seafood I think in the world."

Thanks, Dusty!

The Nationals play their first spring training game against the New York mets on Saturday.

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