Zimmermann taking next step with changeup

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The first thing Jordan Zimmermann wanted to do was learn to throw a good changeup. By his reckoning, it took three years.

The Nationals right-hander said after pitching three innings in Friday night's come-from-behind 6-5 win over the Braves at Champion Stadium that he thinks he's done that and now just has to figure out when to use it most effectively. This can't be good news for National League hitters, considering that the 26-year-old said his changeup was "not good" last season ... when he went 12-8 with a 2.94 ERA.

"It just adds to his arsenal," said manager Davey Johnson. "That's a great pitch if he can get them off his hard stuff. The batters took some funny swings off it. Adding this pitch just makes him that much tougher."

Against the Braves, Zimmermann used the changeup effectively to retire Freddie Freeman and Dan Uggla, but also threw one immediately following a curve to Juan Francisco, who hit it back up the middle for a single.

"It feels really, really good. I wanted to throw it about every pitch, but I knew that wasn't the right thing to do," Zimmermann said with a laugh. "It's definitely learning when to throw it and the right times. That's the next step.

"It was obviously not good last year, and I didn't throw it nearly enough. I worked on it a lot this offseason. It felt good this offseason, and I kept working and working. I think the big thing for me was that I kept cutting it off instead of reaching out and extending. So I had no control, and it was way too hard. Obviously, it's a lot slower now, and I have a much better feel for it."