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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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This year's Nationals roster is stacked with glorious facial hair

This year's Nationals roster is stacked with glorious facial hair

The following is a list of things the 2017 Washington Nationals appear to have: A talented outfield led by Bryce Harper and Adam Eaton. A rising superstar at shortstop in Trea Turner. A possibly major hole at closer.

The following is a list of things the 2017 Washington Nationals appear to not have: Razors. Shaving cream. A desire to groom their faces.

A fun tradition at each team's spring training is the annual photo day, because photo day forces professional athletes to pose in front of cameras like they're being featured in the poster of an upcoming blockbuster movie. And after poring through the snapshots from the Nationals' photo day, a single trend emerged.

This year's team is a hairy bunch.

Among that bunch are the usual suspects, such as Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth:

But there are some surprises, most notably of which is Stephen Strasburg. The right-hander tends to keep his mug 100-percent clean-shaven, but for now, at least, he's allowed his face to become quite fertile:

Then there's newcomer Adam Lind, who has a goatee that Duke's Blue Devil logo would be forced to respect:

Shawn Kelley, meanwhile, who's pictured below, has a beard that looks like...

...Derek Norris' beard, before Derek Norris' beard hit puberty and grew up to be the strong, mature beard it is today:

There are scraggly ones, such as Daniel Murphy's:

And fuller, more complete ones, like Eaton's (full marks, by the way, for the trade acquisition's ability to seamlessly connect 'stache to beard):

The most wild photo of all, however, was this one of Turner. Is this the Nats stud, or a picture of Leonard DiCaprio from a scene in The Revenant? Hard to tell with all that stubble the infielder's cultivating:

One potential positive of this team-wide movement: If Turner and his teammates keep what they're growing down in Florida going throughout the season, their faces will be plenty warm by the time playoff baseball comes around. 

RELATED: HARPER GOES YARD IN FIRST AT-BAT OF THE SPRING

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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