Bill Ladson

Nats to see Zimmermann from different angle

Former teammates happy for Tigers right-hander, eager to face him

Nats to see Zimmermann from different angle

VIERA, Fla. -- Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann was arguably the best pitcher in Nationals history. Who can forget the no-hitter he pitched against the Marlins on the last day of the 2014 season? He came out of the bullpen in Game 4 of the 2012 National League Division Series and dominated the Cardinals for one inning. In Game 2 of the 2014 NLDS, the Giants were glad Zimmermann left the game after 8 2/3 innings. The Nationals would lose the game in 18 innings, 2-1.

But on Saturday afternoon, Zimmermann will be in a different uniform -- a Tigers uniform -- and start against the Nationals at Space Coast Stadium. He left the Nationals as a free agent this past offseason and signed a five-year, $110 million contract with Detroit. There's not much riding on the game, but there will be some friendly competition between Zimmermann and his former mates.

"The old group chat will be going on before and after the game," said Nationals left fielder Jayson Werth, who will hit fourth against Zimmermann. "It will be good to see him. You are happy for him that he was able to experience free agency. He got a good deal. That's part of the game. Mostly, you want him to do well. So far, I think he is doing all right."

Around the Washington media, Zimmermann was a quiet guy. But it was a different story when he was around his teammates, according to first baseman Ryan Zimmerman.

"People get to see him going out there every fifth day, pitching all the time when he was banged up. He gets a ton of respect for that," Zimmerman said. "But he is a funny guy. He is quick and has that dry kind of humor you don't really expect. … You can sit back with a couple of beers with him and you will be laughing a bunch. He is one of my favorite teammates."

Outfielder Bryce Harper, who will hit third against the right-hander, called Zimmermann a competitor, and he wants to see what he is all about on the mound.

"I know he has that bulldog mentality and hopefully he has all the success he can have and do everything he can to further his career with Detroit," Harper said. "Hopefully, we can do everything we can to get to him a little bit."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.