Zimmermann has grasp on what's ahead this year

Zimmermann has grasp on what's ahead this year

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Even this early on in Spring Training, Jordan Zimmermann already has a grasp on how important this season will be for him personally.

He is set to become a free agent at the end of the year, and the Nationals hope he can lead them to the World Series.

"If it's going to be any year, it's going to be this year and we all know that," Zimmermann said after tossing two shutout innings against the Braves on Friday. "We're all getting ready for a big year."

Zimmermann, 28, capped a 2014 campaign where he went 14-5 with a 2.66 ERA, with a dominant performance in the postseason, nearly pitching a shutout in Game 2 of the National League Division Series against the Giants before he was pulled after 8 2/3 innings.

Now as he prepares for what could be his final season in Washington, Zimmermann said he has gained a better understanding of how to handle the first few outings of Spring Training.

Even though he did not have complete command of his fastball in Friday's 9-8 win against the Braves, he surrendered just one hit and walked one.

"Early in my career I was ready to go from my first outing," Zimmermann said. "Now I'm just trying to build up and obviously not show these guys too much right away. For the most part, I'm working to get to 100 percent and be ready for Opening Day."

Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.