Jordan Zimmermann

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.

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.