Jordan Zimmermann makes first start in 13 months

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The event was overshadowed a bit by the introduction of Bryce Harper and the concern over Stephen Strasburg, but Jordan Zimmermann made his long-awaited return from Tommy John surgery in last night’s wild 11-10 extra-innings victory over the Cardinals.

Zimmermann looked decent enough over the first three innings, giving up one run on two hits and a walk, but the wheels came off after he served up a solo home run to Albert Pujols to begin the top of the fourth inning. The Cardinals would score four runs on five hits in the frame, ending Zimmermann’s night. The young right-hander allowed five runs on seven hits over four innings while striking out three, walking one and hitting a batter.

Considering that it was his first major league start in 13 months, you can bet the Nationals aren’t all that concerned about the results just yet. Besides, he showed excellent velocity, averaging 92.3 mph on his fastball, and told Bill Ladson of MLB.com that he walked away from the outing feeling healthy. That’s the important part.

“I felt good the whole time,” Zimmermann said. “The first three innings
were good. The fourth inning, I wish I could have over. Pujols hit that
home run. I was a little frustrated, and then I left a couple of balls
up and I got hit around a little bit.”

There’s still plenty of reason to believe he can build upon the promise of his rookie season. Unfortunately, it’s anybody’s guess when Zimmermann and Strasburg will actually be in the same starting rotation.
 

Shohei Otani may come to the United States after 2017

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Last week it was widely speculated that Shohei Otani, the highly-touted Japanese pitcher/designated hitter who stars for the Nippon Ham Fighters, would not come to the United States to play due to changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The upshot: the new CBA caps money available to international free agents under age 25 at $5-6 million and Otani, 22, would be worth way more than that, so why take the pay cut?

Now, however, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that the Fighters are set to post Shotei Otani following the 2017 season. Passan says that his sources have told him that there are potential ways around the limit on spending for under-25 players like Shohei Otani and he links a Japanese article from Sponichi which says the Fighters would post him after the 2017 season.

It’d be interesting to see what that loophole is. Without knowing the exact terms of the CBA on this score it’s impossible to know, but one possibility is that there are different rules applicable to those with professional experience in other countries as opposed to amateur free agents.

Whatever the case, the notion that we could see Otani in the U.S. at age 23 or 24 is pretty exciting.

Report: Phillies close to signing Joaquin Benoit

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the seventh inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 15, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.

Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.

The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.