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Then Zimmermann looked sharp in his first Grapefruit League outing. He retired the first eight batters before a two-out single to Pedro Severino ended his day.
"It's definitely fun getting out there and attacking these guys after all the smack talk," said Zimmermann, who allowed one hit in 2 2/3 innings and struck out two. "They said when I move on they're going to take me deep, so it was a good outing."
Zimmermann signed a five-year, $110 million contract with Detroit this offseason, ending his seven-year career in Washington. And yet, as he walked off the field and into the third-base dugout, Zimmermann received an ovation from the crowd of Nationals fans.
"It was nice," he said. "Like I said all along the fans are great, and they showed it again today."
The Nationals' lineup was made up of many of their probable starters, so Zimmermann tried to take advantage of his old teammates' tendencies. Werth, for instance, sometimes will not swing early in the count during his first few spring games.
"He's yelling at me rounding first after he popped up," Zimmermann said with a laugh. "It was fun."
Zimmermann said Saturday's game felt different, and admitted it will still feel weird if he ends up pitching against the Nationals when the Tigers play a three-game series in Washington from May 9-11.
"It was strange. But it was good seeing him," Strasburg said. "He's doing well. He likes it over there. So I'm happy for him."
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.