WASHINGTON -- Tigers right-hander Jordan Zimmermann said it was weird going into Nationals Park as a visiting player on Monday afternoon. After all, he spent his first seven years in a Nationals uniform and was arguably the best pitcher in team history.
Zimmermann won 70 games with Washington and threw a no-hitter against the Marlins on Sept. 28, 2014. Zimmermann called it his most memorable moment. He also called his performance in Game 2 of the National League Division Series against the Giants another fine moment. He pitched 8 2/3 innings, allowed a run on three hits, struck out six batters and left the game with a no-decision as Washington lost the game, 2-1, in 18 innings.
Zimmermann said he thought he would have spent more years in D.C. But Zimmermann and the Nationals' front office couldn't come to terms on a new contract. Instead, he signed a five-year, $110 million deal with the Tigers. Zimmermann said he doesn't have any bitterness toward the Nationals. They treated him with respect the entire time.
"I'm just excited to be back and see some of [the guys]," Zimmermann said. "I knew we were coming here. It's actually my first time in the visitor's side. Other than that, it's just another ballpark."
On Monday, he acted as if he was back home. There he was, having his bullpen session, getting ready to face former teammate Max Scherzer on Wednesday. After he was done with the session, Zimmerman met up with Nationals bullpen catcher Nilson Robledo in left field. They walked toward the Nationals' dugout and were greeted by Scherzer, Blake Treinen and Sammy Solis. Scherzer and Zimmermann embraced, with Scherzer saying, "We'll be locking horns on Wednesday."
"Yeah, I can't wait," Zimmerman replied. "It's going to be fun and we'll see what happens. I'm pretty sure I'll be amped up and try to calm those emotions, go out there and pitch my game."
Zimmermann is off to the best start of his big league career. He entered Monday tops in the Major Leagues with a 1.10 ERA and was among the league leaders in victories with five.
"I feel like I've been doing what I've been doing over the years," Zimmermann said. "When I get in those tight jams, I'm able to get out of it. I'm not giving up that hit with runners in scoring position. I'm able to wiggle out of some stuff. That's basically it. ... The hitters don't know me and I don't know them, so it's kind of an even playing field. They don't know what I have to offer. I really don't know what their tendencies are either. I rely on the catcher quite a bit, and I just try to execute my pitch."
Bill Ladson has covered the Nationals/Expos for MLB.com since 2002 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.