VIERA, Fla. -- Jordan Zimmermann has enjoyed plenty of success in the Majors while riding his four-seam fastball, slider and curveball. At the same time, the development of a fourth pitch, the changeup, has been a frequent topic of discussion.
The Nationals right-hander used the offering effectively Saturday afternoon against the Braves at Space Coast Stadium, in his first Spring Training start. Zimmermann mixed it in while tossing two scoreless innings that included one infield hit, one strikeout and four ground-ball outs.
"Trying to carry the changeup over to March, and I guess it's March 1 today, so I'm taking a step in the right direction," said Zimmermann, an All-Star last year while going 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA. "Just keep throwing it and throwing it and throwing it is all you can do, because it's such a feel pitch that throwing it is the only way you're going to get better at throwing the pitch."
Zimmermann used the change 5.2 percent of the time last season, according to brooksbaseball.net, which was more than twice as much as in 2012.
He said he broke out the pitch a couple of times while facing the Braves' Freddie Freeman in the first inning.
"I threw one 1-0, and he kind of looked at me like, 'Really? We're starting this already?'" Zimmermann said. "But it was good. Got to 3-2, and I figured that was the last thing he was looking for and I threw a pretty good one. It was up a little bit, but he rolled it over and I got a ground ball, so it was good."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.