Nationals’ Jordan Zimmermann ends season with 3.18 ERA

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Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann spent most of the 2010 season recovering from Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery, so he tallied only 70 2/3 innings between the minor and major leagues.

Because of that low innings total, the talented 25-year-old right-hander entered the 2011 campaign with a loosely-defined innings limit. And he reached it on Sunday afternoon against the Reds.

Zimmermann allowed three earned runs over 4 1/3 frames, surrendering six hits and a walk while fanning six Cincinnati hitters in his final outing of the year. He threw 81 pitches, 55 of which went for strikes.

Despite Sunday’s rough outing, the often underhyped Zimmermann will turn out the lights on his third major league season having posted a fantastic 3.18 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 124/31 K/BB ratio over 161 1/3 innings (26 starts). He’s likely to open 2012 as the Nats’ No. 2 starter behind 23-year-old phenom Stephen Strasburg.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.