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Appreciating Jordan Zimmermann’s Nationals career

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Appreciating Jordan Zimmermann’s Nationals career

Before he made the All-Star team, threw a no-hitter and signed a free agent contract north of $100 million, Jordan Zimmermann was a well-kept secret for those who watched him take the mound every fifth day for the Washington Nationals. He was the quiet one, content with standing in the shadows of Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, never craving and thus rarely receiving the attention that was well-warranted for a player of his caliber.

For what seemed like a while, Zimmermann was one of the more underrated players in baseball. He took the ball when it was his turn and consistently pitched well. He took pride in that. He was not a well-known name by baseball fans across the country, and he cherished that. Zimmermann just wanted to do his job and very seldom wanted to talk about himself.

Now, after seven years, Zimmermann is moving on. The right-hander signed a five-year deal worth $110 million to join the Detroit Tigers. Instead of pitching alongside Strasburg and Gio, he will now be a rotation-mate of Justin Verlander. Two years ago Max Scherzer was in Detroit and Zimmermann was in Washington. Now, the two have traded places.

The Tigers are getting a pitcher who over the last five seasons has averaged 31 starts and a 3.14 ERA. He's one of the more reliable starters out there both in terms of results and durability. Since having Tommy John surgery in 2009, Zimmermann hasn't been on the disabled list and has occasionally pitched through injuries.

After seven years, Zimmermann leaves the Nationals having already provided many indelible memories. Of course, there was his no-hitter on the last day of the 2014 regular season, the first no-no in Nationals history. There was his relief appearance in Game 4 of the 2012 NLDS when he hit 97 miles per hour on the radar gun five times while striking out the side.

There was also his brilliant performance in the 2014 NLDS in a game the Nats would end up losing in 18 innings. Zimmermann was one out away from a playoff shutout of the eventual world champions before getting pulled by Matt Williams.

Covering Zimmermann on the Nats beat for the last five seasons was a pleasure. He was soft spoken, but respectful and never hid from the media after his worst outings. It was sometimes his best days on the field that produced his shyest moments off of it.

Moments after walking off the field on Sept. 28, 2014 when he no-hit the Marlins, he saw a Nationals PR official who is also from Wisconsin. Zimmermann's first question was whether the Packers had won.

In his press conference that evening I asked him about also having two hits for himself on offense, whether it was "just one of those days." He replied with "obviously" and a wry smile, a rare instance he publicly showed his dry sense of humor.

Media day at the MLB All-Star Game brings out reporters from all walks of life, especially when the event is held in New York City. In 2013, when Zimmermann was reluctantly holding court at Citi Field and letting us know exactly how uncomfortable he was, a guy approached the table from the music TV station 'FUSE.' He wanted to know what players listen to before games to pump them up. The conversation went something like this:

FUSE guy: 'What's in your headphones before games?"

Zimmermann: 'I don't listen to headphones.'

FUSE guy: 'What do you listen to before games?'

Zimmermann: 'I don't know, whatever is on the speakers in the clubhouse.'

FUSE guy: 'What kind of music do you like?'

Zimmermann: 'I don't know, I like country I guess.'

A question or two later and the regulars of the Nats' beat corps were laughing. That FUSE reporter had picked the wrong guy and we all could have told him that.

Zimmermann may not go down as one of the most outward personalities the Nationals have ever had, but he is certainly one of the best players in team history. He is, most would argue, the best pitcher the team has had in Washington so far.

It was unfortunate the way his final season went with the Nationals not only missing out on the playoffs, but with how his last home start ended. He did not get an opportunity to acknowledge the crowd in a final farewell.

But with the Tigers set to play in D.C. in an interleague series in May, there could very soon be a chance for Nationals fans to say thanks. If he is healthy and his rotation spot lines up, he could return to face his former team in about six months.

One could expect a big applause when his name is called, and perhaps a standing ovation. He will likely take a moment to tip his cap, but then get right down to business as he did so many times in Washington.

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It's Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

It's Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

So if you have not heard, Bryce Harper is going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2018 season.

All off-season talking heads, baseball aficionados, radio hosts, etc. were speculating on where the outfielder’s destination will be next year.

And we are still a year away from it actually happening.

RELATED: VEGAS SETS OVER/UNDERS FOR 2018 MLB SEASON

Reporting to spring training on Monday, Harper did not waste any time telling the media how his press conferences were going to play out this season.

“If guys do [ask], or talk anything about that, I will be walking right out the door.”

Entering his seventh season with the Washington Nationals, the 25-year-old is coming off the second-best season, statistically, of his career. The 2015 NL MVP has hit .285 in his career, with 150 home runs and 421 RBIs. Unquestionably he is the face of the Nationals’ organization, if not, the best player in the team’s history.

If he does end the season without a contract extension, he will join Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, and Barry Bonds as the top sought out free agents in MLB history.

One thing is for certain in terms of Harper’s free agency; Harper has given no inclination on where his landing spot will be.  The top three cities are of course his favorite childhood team, the New York Yankees; joining with one of his closest friends with the Chicago Cubs; or just staying with Washington.

Wherever he does land, it does appear that it will be the largest contract given to a free agent ever.

As for now we just wait and direct any of your calls to his agent Scott Boras.

READ ALSO: NATIONALS FULL SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE

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Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

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Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

Now that pitchers and catchers have reported, the next step in our long journey to Opening Day is the spring training games themselves. Not every game is televised, so get ready to follow along with your favorite beat writer's Twitter account for all your updates.

Even without getting to watch the games, it'll still be exciting to once again check box scores in the morning to see if Bryce Harper homered again, or if Max Scherzer is perfect through 4 innings (spoiler: both of these will happen).

This year's spring training will be especially interesting, considering how many big-name players will be signing contracts in the next few weeks. The Nats are always willing to make a big splash, and even beyond the available free agents, have been linked to impact players like J.T. Realmuto in trade rumors.

Typically, the excitement of adding a new piece to the roster has to be reignited after a long winter off, but this season, those additions will be happening while camp is already underway.

It's going to be a hectic few weeks as teams prepare for their seasons, so bookmark this page to check on the Nationals spring training schedule over the next few weeks as the team finally takes the field in 2018.

Nationals 2018 Spring Training Schedule

Friday, Feb. 23 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Saturday, Feb. 24 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Feb. 25 - Braves at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Feb. 26 - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Feb. 27 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 28 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 1 (SS) - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 2 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Saturday, Mar. 3 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Tigers at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Monday, Mar. 5 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 6 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Wednesday, Mar. 7 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 8 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 10 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 11 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Mar. 12 - Nationals at Tigers, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 13 (SS) - Mets at Nationals, 7:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 15 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 16 (SS) - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Saturday, Mar. 17 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 18 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Monday, Mar. 19 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 20 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Mar. 21 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (ESPN2) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 22 - Nationals at Mets, 6:10 pm
Friday, Mar. 23 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Friday, Mar. 23 - Nationals at Marlins, 7:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 24 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 25 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 27 (at Nationals Park) - Twins at Nationals, 4:05 pm