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Jordan Zimmermann will have an innings limit this season

Feb 15, 2011, 9:33 PM EST

Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann spent most of last season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, but managed to return to the big leagues in late-August, just one year removed from the procedure.

The 24-year-old right-hander posted a 4.94 ERA and 27/10 K/BB ratio over seven starts with the Nats down the stretch. He was inconsistent and struggled with the home run ball at times, but averaged 92.3 mph on his fastball and was most importantly pain-free.

While Zimmermann figures to play a major role in the Nationals’ starting rotation this season, manager Jim Riggleman told Ben Goessling of MASNSports.com earlier today that he will face an innings limit.

“We’re not looking for Jordan to go out there and give us 200 innings this year. That’s more of the future,” Riggleman said. “But we do want him to go out there and be a stabilizer. He’s a guy who I think right now around baseball, regardless of what rotation he was in, would probably be looked at as a third starter. But we feel like he’s going to be better than that. It doesn’t all have to happen this year, but we do want to make progress toward that.”

Riggleman said he intends to speak with pitching coach Steve McCatty and pitching coordinator Spin Williams before the team settles on an exact number. Zimmermann has never tossed more than 134 innings in a single season — and that was in his first full professional season back in 2008 — so it’s fair to expect he’ll have a ceiling of approximately 150-160 innings.

It’s not like the Nationals are expected to contend this season, anyway — remember, there’s only an outside chance that Stephen Strasburg will pitch in September — but the front end of their starting rotation could be pretty formidable as soon as 2012.

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