Jordan Zimmermann will have an innings limit this season

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Jordan Zimmermann spent most of last season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, but managed to return to the big leagues in late-August, just one year removed from the procedure.

The 24-year-old right-hander posted a 4.94 ERA and 27/10 K/BB ratio over seven starts with the Nats down the stretch. He was inconsistent and struggled with the home run ball at times, but averaged 92.3 mph on his fastball and was most importantly pain-free.

While Zimmermann figures to play a major role in the Nationals’ starting rotation this season, manager Jim Riggleman told Ben Goessling of MASNSports.com earlier today that he will face an innings limit.

“We’re not looking for Jordan to go out there and give us 200 innings this year. That’s more of the future,” Riggleman said. “But we do want him to go out there and be a stabilizer. He’s a guy who I think right now around baseball, regardless of what rotation he was in, would probably be looked at as a third starter. But we feel like he’s going to be better than that. It doesn’t all have to happen this year, but we do want to make progress toward that.”

Riggleman said he intends to speak with pitching coach Steve McCatty and pitching coordinator Spin Williams before the team settles on an exact number. Zimmermann has never tossed more than 134 innings in a single season — and that was in his first full professional season back in 2008 — so it’s fair to expect he’ll have a ceiling of approximately 150-160 innings.

It’s not like the Nationals are expected to contend this season, anyway — remember, there’s only an outside chance that Stephen Strasburg will pitch in September — but the front end of their starting rotation could be pretty formidable as soon as 2012.

Giants remove pitching coach Dave Righetti

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After 18 years, 12 winning seasons, seven postseason runs and three World Championships, Dave Righetti is no longer a pitching coach for the Giants. He was removed from his post on Saturday, when the team announced a few reassignments as they shake up their coaching staff. Heading into the 2018 season, Righetti will serve as special assistant to general manager Bobby Evans, former bullpen coach Mark Gardner will step into a similar special assistant role to “assist in pitching evaluations,” and former assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will take a special assistant role in baseball operations.

According to MLB.com’s Chris Haft, Righetti was the longest-tenured pitching coach in the big leagues. He helped shape the careers of notable Giants’ aces like Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain — all Cy Young contenders (and, in Lincecum’s case, a two-time winner) at various points in their careers. He was there to assist Ryan Vogelsong during his stunning mid-career comeback in San Francisco. He helped newcomers like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach flourish even as the team stumbled to the bottom of the division. He was there to take the credit when a sterling rotation clinched the Giants’ 56-year, drought-snapping championship title in 2010 — and, when things went so horribly south in 2017, he took the blame as well.

Hardly anything went right for the Giants’ pitching staff in 2017. Madison Bumgarner was shelved after sustaining a serious shoulder injury in a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto couldn’t shake a cluster of blisters on his right hand and Mark Melancon found it difficult to justify a $62 million paycheck after pitching through an arm injury to four blown losses/saves and a 4.50 ERA. It would be a lot for any pitching coach to stay on top of, and given the team’s rapid descent from 2016 postseason contenders to last-place finishers in 2017, it’s not surprising that Evans felt the need to switch things up.

Successors have yet to be named for Righetti, Gardner or Decker, though Murray hears that the Giants could have interest in former major league pitching coach Jim Hickey. NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic adds that Evans is searching for someone to “put a new voice” on the pitching staff and will likely target someone who, like Righetti, brings considerable experience to the role.