Storen gives up lead in 9th, Nationals tie Marlins
VIERA, Fla. (AP) By the time spring training ends, Jordan Zimmermann wants to have enough confidence in his changeup that he can throw it in any count.
Zimmermann was pleased with the results of his first Grapefruit League test Sunday, when he pitched three innings for the Washington Nationals in a 2-2 tie with the Miami Marlins that was stopped after 10 innings.
"It feels good right now," Zimmermann said. "I have a good feel for it. I threw a changeup to (Greg) Dobbs at the end and got him to roll over it to first. He was sitting on a heater, so that was good."
The Marlins had plenty to be pleased with themselves after starter Henderson Alvarez, acquired in a big offseason trade with Toronto, threw two scoreless innings. Of the 22 pitches he threw, 19 were strikes.
"He was great, very efficient," first-year Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "I thought he was aggressive in the strike zone, got enough pitches in. ... I liked it."
The 22-year-old right-hander was 9-14 with a 4.85 ERA in 31 starts for Toronto last season. He was one of seven players Miami acquired in a November trade that sent Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes to the Blue Jays.
"Thank God I did well," Alvarez said through a translator. "All of my pitches fell in the strike zone."
Zimmermann, who threw 26 of his 43 pitches for strikes, said earlier this spring that he did not use his changeup much last season, largely because he didn't have a lot of confidence in it. Not only is he looking to remedy that this spring, he is also trying to figure out what counts will work best.
Part of that experimentation included a 2-1 changeup he threw to Bryan Petersen in the third inning. Zimmermann missed and found himself in a 3-1 hole.
"I don't know if I would do that that during the season," Zimmermann said. "If I get a little better feel for it I definitely will, but I thought I would give it a try right there."
Chris Valaika opened the third inning with a double off Zimmermann and scored on an RBI groundout by Chris Coughlin.
After a 66-minute rain delay, the Nationals took the lead on a two-run homer by Anthony Rendon, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2011 draft.
The score remained 2-1 until the ninth, when the Marlins got consecutive singles by Christian Yelich and Kyle Jensen off reliever Drew Storen. Jake Jeffries' groundout scored Yelich with the tying run.
It was Storen's first outing since blowing a save opportunity in Game 5 of last year's NL division series against St. Louis. Rather than relive that history, however, Storen was more concerned about not being too amped up in his first spring outing, as he was last season.
Storen missed the rest of the spring and wound up having surgery to remove a bone fragment in his right elbow. He was out of action until July.
The right-hander said he treated Sunday like a "live batting practice" instead of a ninth-inning save situation.
Nationals manager Davey Johnson said Storen had good velocity, but got the ball up in the strike zone early in the inning.
"I felt good," Storen said. "I wasn't really throwing max-out. I was a couple of gears down, just trying to stay on top of the ball more than anything else. Coming out healthy is the main thing."
NOTES: Nationals LF Bryce Harper had two hard-hit singles in his only plate appearances. ... RHP Chris Young, who signed a minor league deal with the Nationals on Thursday, threw a bullpen. The plan is to get him ready for March 9, when he will take the rotation spot of Ross Detwiler, who will be leaving for the World Baseball Classic. ... Nationals RHP Christian Garcia said his strained right wrist is feeling better, but Johnson said it would likely be 10-14 days before he gets back on the mound. ... Washington Mayor Vincent C. Gray threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Gray, attending his first Nationals spring training, also watched the team play in Port St. Lucie against the Mets on Saturday. ... With Marlins catcher Jeff Mathis expected to miss the next six weeks with a broken collarbone, it opens up the door for players such as Kyle Skipworth to make an impression. Skipworth, the No. 6 pick in the 2008 draft, will start Monday on the road against Atlanta. OF Giancarlo Stanton is also expected to make that trip. ... 1B Casey Kotchman played in a simulated game, six days after getting four stitches to close a cut on his finger. He could be ready to return soon. ... Redmond said OF Justin Ruggiano is still bothered by a strained lower back.
Updated February 24, 2013