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Zim doubles in debut behind lights-out Scherzer

Robles hits first spring homer; Max glad to see former batterymate Lobaton
Special to MLB.com

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- On a day when the fanfare of Mets Minor Leaguer Tim Tebow's first Grapefruit League start took center stage, Washington's Ryan Zimmerman was alternately taking it in and being understanding of the former NFL quarterback's plight.

Playing as New York's designated hitter and batting cleanup, Tebow came to the plate to lead off the bottom of the second against Washington ace Max Scherzer in the Nationals' 2-1 win.

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- On a day when the fanfare of Mets Minor Leaguer Tim Tebow's first Grapefruit League start took center stage, Washington's Ryan Zimmerman was alternately taking it in and being understanding of the former NFL quarterback's plight.

Playing as New York's designated hitter and batting cleanup, Tebow came to the plate to lead off the bottom of the second against Washington ace Max Scherzer in the Nationals' 2-1 win.

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The small crowd at First Data Field stood and applauded the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner, who had made two brief appearances earlier in the week as an in-game substitute.

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"I look at him as another player. I don't fault him for trying to want to play baseball," said Zimmerman of the Tebow phenomenon, which New York general manager Sandy Alderson dubbed "an experiment" when camp opened.

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At the same time, the first baseman said he doesn't understand the negative emotions that come with Tebow suiting up in blue and orange.

"People get angry for some reason. I don't know why they get angry. He didn't sign himself to come play. It's not his fault someone gave him a chance. He seems like a nice guy," Zimmerman said of Tebow, who struck out on three pitches against Scherzer. It seems kind of silly to get upset over someone playing baseball. I've got no problem with it."

Making his first Spring Training start himself, Zimmerman was pleased with his own performance. He lined out to right fielder Jay Bruce in the first, then doubled on a soft liner to center field to lead off the fourth.

Video: Outlook: Zimmerman may have trouble repeating '17

"It's always good to get in there. Two good at-bats, two good swings. It's as much as you can ask for," he said.

Zimmerman said he knows he's playing in Sunday's split-squad games -- at home against Detroit (1:05 p.m. ET) and back in Port St. Lucie against the Mets (1:10 p.m.), but he's not sure in what capacity.

Max effort
Scherzer was sharp in his second spring outing, building off the two innings he fired against Atlanta on Sunday. The three-time Cy Young Award worked three perfect frames on Friday in an outing he called "a good Spring Training start."

Scherzer struck out five, including the side in the third inning. His only complaint was getting behind in the count on a few hitters.

"I built off my last start. Just felt strong all the way through the start," Scherzer said. "Now I can feel myself getting into the swing of things. No walks, that's always a plus. That's a huge goal of mine always in spring. I'd rather give up a home run than walk guys in spring. At least I was pounding the zone."

Video: Max Scherzer is the No. 4 starting pitcher right now

Scherzer faced Tebow last Mar. 27, fanning the lefty hitter twice and dialing up 97 mph fastballs. Scherzer said the adrenaline and intensity on Friday didn't quite match that late-spring start.

"It's not as much. Not as many fans here this time. Anytime the fans start cheering, it always gets the adrenaline [going]," he said.

Scherzer said he didn't get caught up in the Tebow hype, choosing instead to concentrate on what he and catcher Matt Wieters had set out to accomplish.

"No, I'm out there trying to get him out. I'm working on my instincts to what I need to do to get him out," he said.

Hello, old friend
Scherzer faced former batterymate Jose Lobaton in the bottom of the third inning, and while the right-hander got the better of the Mets catcher -- striking him out looking -- Scherzer couldn't help but smile to himself and laugh afterward.

"That was fun facing him," Scherzer said. "It's hard to take him seriously. All the stuff that goes on in the clubhouse and then he gets in the box. You can't let that stuff go. I wish him the best.

"He was such a good personality and brought laughter into the clubhouse. You see him standing in the box, and you think of the good times over the last three years."

Lobaton is third on the Mets' depth chart at catcher behind starter Travis D'Arnaud and backup Kevin Plawecki.

Victory for Robles
Nationals top prospect Victor Robles hit his first home run of spring -- a solo shot off Mets right-hander Marcos Molina to lead off the seventh inning. Robles, who replaced Michael A. Taylor at center field in the sixth, finished 1-for-2 and is hitting .353 in Grapefruit League play.

Up next
Stephen Strasburg will make his Spring Training debut on Saturday when the Nationals travel to West Palm Beach, Fla., to take on starter Justin Verlander and the defending champion Astros at 1:05 p.m. ET. Watch on MLB.TV.

Bill Whitehead is a contributor to MLB.com.

Washington Nationals, Max Scherzer, Ryan Zimmerman