The suggestion appeared to come out of the blue. Jordan Zimmermann, after another quality start last night in the Nationals' 3-1 loss to the Phillies, told reporters there's a chance he will skip Tuesday's All-Star Game to let his lingering stiff neck have more time to heal before the second half of the season begins.

Seriously? One of baseball's best pitchers, who has shown outward signs of being injured, might ask out of his first All-Star Game appearance because of a stiff neck?


Before vilifying Zimmermann, though, let's get our facts straight. The right-hander has indeed been dealing with a lingering neck injury for nearly two months. Davey Johnson has mentioned it more than once following his starts, and Zimmermann himself had acknowledged it prior to last night's game in Philadelphia.

Has it negatively affected his pitching performance? On the surface, it certainly doesn't seem like it. Zimmermann has put together some absolutely dominant starts over the last month, including an eight-inning, 112-pitch gem against the Rockies on June 20.

But Johnson has been mindful of the ailment, and on a few occasions hasn't let his young ace go as deep into games as he might normally have, including last night's 79-pitch effort.

If anything, the Nationals seem to be taking precautionary measures with Zimmermann's neck more than reactionary measures. And now the right-hander himself seems to be agreeing with that course of action.

"I'd rather be healthy for the second half than pitch in [the All-Star Game]," Zimmermann told reporters last night. "I'd like to pitch in it, but I'm not going to go up there and pitch an inning and have to battle in the second half."

In some ways, this sounds awfully familiar to Ian Desmond's predicament one year ago. The shortstop was on fire in early July when he earned his first career All-Star selection, then surprisingly pulled out of the game because of a lingering oblique strain.