Jordan Zimmermann adding change-up to repertoire

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Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann, quietly one of baseball’s best pitchers last year, threw six change-ups in his latest spring training outing against the Atlanta Braves. Adam Kilgore writes that Zimmermann has been attempting to add the pitch to his repertoire since 2010, but just hasn’t felt good enough about it to make it a featured part of his arsenal. He’s very confident in it now.

Zimmermann allowed two earned runs on five hits, including a solo homer by Jason Heyward, and no walks while striking out four. He fired 39 strikes. Afterward, all he wanted to talk about was his changeup.

“It feels really, really good right now,” Zimmermann said. “I wanted to throw it about every pitch if I could, but I know that wasn’t the right thing to do. It’s definitely learning when to throw it, the right times. That’s the next step.”

Zimmermann thought all six changeups were “really good.”

Over his career, spanning 479.1 innings, Zimmermann has thrown 235 change-ups out of 7,684 total pitches (3%). Averaging 86 MPH, seven MPH slower than his fastball, opposing hitters have feasted on his change-up. Of the 63 put in play, 25 have been hits (a .397 average) including five doubles and a home run. Of 280 pitchers with at least 50 change-ups put in play since 2009, Zimmermann’s OPS allowed on change-ups ranks 259th. It has certainly been a work in progress. Since becoming a fixture in the Nationals’ rotation, the right-hander has relied on a fastball-slider-curve combination.

Anthony Alford to miss 4-6 weeks following wrist surgery

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Blue Jays’ outfielder Anthony Alford will miss at least 4-6 weeks after undergoing surgery on his left wrist, the team announced on Saturday. Alford was placed on the 10-day disabled list earlier in the week after sustaining a left hamate fracture on a foul pitch, and could miss significant time in what looks to be a lengthy rehab process. MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the procedure has been scheduled for next week and will be performed by Dr. Donald Sheridan in Arizona.

Alford, 22, was called up to the majors from Double-A New Hampshire last Friday. He went hitless in his first three outings, finally catching a break against the Brewers on Tuesday when he pinch-hit a leadoff double in the seventh. The injury occurred two innings later when Alford fouled off a pitch in the ninth inning, fracturing his wrist in the process.

Alford will join eight other players on the Blue Jays’ disabled list, including outfielders Steve Pearce (calf strain), Dalton Pompey (concussion) and Darrell Cecillani (partial shoulder dislocation). He’s expected to be replaced by 24-year-old outfield prospect Dwight Smith Jr.

Stephen Strasburg hit a new career high today

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Good luck getting a hit against the Nationals this weekend. Stephen Strasburg followed Max Scherzer‘s 13-strikeout performance on Friday with a dazzling outing of his own on Saturday afternoon. The right-hander whiffed a career-best 15 batters in seven innings, allowing just three hits and a walk in the Nats’ 3-0 win.

It took Strasburg several innings to get into a groove after pitching into (and out of) a jam in the first inning. The Padres loaded the bases with Allen Cordoba‘s leadoff single, a throwing error by Ryan Zimmerman and a four-pitch walk to Cory Spangenberg. By the third, Strasburg was cruising, striking out the side on 18 pitches and keeping the Padres off the basepaths until the sixth. He recorded his 15th and final strikeout in the seventh inning, catching Padres’ prospect Franchy Cordero swinging on a 1-2 pitch to effectively end his outing.

While 15 strikeouts set a new career record for the Nationals’ ace, he came close to reaching the mark twice before. The first time, he struck out 14 of 24 batters during his major league debut against the 2010 Pirates, though the 5-2 win did little more than keep the Nationals neck-and-neck with the Marlins at the bottom of the NL East. Five years later, he tied his 14-strikeout record against the 2015 Phillies, tossing a one-hitter in eight innings to cement his ninth victory of the season.

The only one who doesn’t seem overly enthused by the new record? Strasburg himself, who told MLB.com’s Jamal Collier and AJ Cassavell: “It’s pretty cool, but there’s another game five, six days from now. I’ll enjoy it tonight, but back to work tomorrow.”