One year-long recovery and nine rehab starts in the minors, and only one thing stands between Jordan Zimmermann and his return to the big leagues: one more rehab start as Bill Ladson of MLB.com reports .
One questions why it's necessary for Zimmermann to make a 10th start, when his first nine have gone as well as can be hoped. In 34 2/3 innings split between mid-Class A Hagerstown (one start), high-Class A Potomac (four), Double-A Harrisburg (two) and Triple-A Syracuse (three), the righty has a cumulative 1.92 ERA. That number drops to 0.75 in the three Triple-A starts, striking out seven and walking two in 12 innings.
The 24-year-old made 16 starts in his rookie season of 2009, with a 4.63 ERA and 92/29 BB/K ratio over 91 1/3 starts as a top-rated prospect. His season was cut short by Tommy John surgery, although he seems to have come out of it none the worse for the wear.
When the former second-round pick returns, the Nats will have a tough decision to make on who gets bumped from the rotation. Currently, Stephen Strasburg heads up a quintet of Livan Hernandez, John Lannan, Jason Marquis and Scott Olsen. Olsen is racking up bonuses with every start he makes and just came off the disabled list. He recently gave up seven runs in 1 2/3 innings against the Marlins and should be considered the front-runner to be bumped.
Hernandez and his 3.08 ERA is going nowhere, and Marquis is likely in the same boat despite an eye-gouging 14.33 ERA in 16 1/3 innings, having just returned from a long stint on the disabled list. Marquis is signed for $7.5 million for 2011, so the Nats would presumably like to see the veteran log some innings in preparation for a push at .500.
Lannan just returned from a minor-league demotion to give up a scant two earned runs in each of his last three starts, so is also unlikely to be bumped. Strasburg, of course, is going nowhere, especially when his most recent DL stint all but assured he can stay in the rotation the rest of the season and not exceed his innings limit.
Bet on Olsen being bumped for Zimmermann, which will give the Nationals what could very well be their rotation entering the 2011 season with only Hernandez slated to be a free agent.
-- Evan Brunell
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