Posted on September 10, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
After multiple stints on the DL this season, Jordan Zimmermann is scheduled to return to the mound for the Detroit Tigers on Saturday, and he’s hoping to give his team a lift that can propel them into the postseason. Zimmermann will make his return start against the Baltimore Orioles. Following Detroit’s win over Baltimore on Friday night, the two teams are currently tied for the second wild card spot in the American League.
Zimmermann has made just one start for the Tigers since June 30. In early July he was sent to the DL so he could recover from a neck strain that was hindering his performance. He returned from that injury on August 4, but lasted just 1.2 innings, allowing six runs in a start against the Chicago White Sox. Following that start, Zimmermann was sent back to the DL with a lat strain.
That time away has been frustrating for Zimmermann, who was expected to help lead Detroit’s rotation after signing a five-year deal with the Tigers before the season. “It was probably the worst feeling ever knowing you wasted two or three months and weren’t able to pitch and help this team,” Zimmermann explains. “The last two or three were horrible. I just hope to turn it around this last month and finish strong.”
Zimmermann had a brilliant start to the season, going 5-0 with a 0.55 ERA during the month of April. However, he began to struggle in May and June, in part because he was attempting to pitch through the pain in his neck. He’s hoping to return to his early-season form for the final few weeks in the season, and after making three minor league rehab starts over the past couple of weeks, Zimmermann feels prepared to contribute.
He admits that his velocity is not quite where he wants it to be, but says his fastball is sitting in the low 90s, which is good enough for him. “I feel good. The breaking stuff is good, fastball’s coming out better than it was before. I don’t know if my (velocity) will be back this year because I’ve had so many ups and downs. It’s been down just a tick right now. Hopefully, the more I get out there, the more it will come back. But I feel strong. I feel I can locate pretty good. We’ll see.”
Zimmermann also believes that his experience can benefit the Tigers down the stretch. “I’ve been in tight situations before,” he said. “I’ve pitched in playoff games. I’ve seen enough over the years to be able to keep myself calm and not get too excited out there and do something I’m not capable of doing.” Outside of Justin Verlander, the Tigers don’t have many pitchers with experience pitching in important September games, making Zimmermann all the more important. “Some guys they may not trust, but I feel I’ve done enough in my career, they should be able to trust me,” he says.
With Zimmermann back in the fold, the Tigers can finally put together the triumvirate of him, Verlander, and rookie Michael Fulmer, a trio that’s undoubtedly capable of carrying the Tigers to the postseason if all three are pitching at their best. The Tigers have done well to remain in the thick of the wild card race until now, and while the race remains tight and competitive, a healthy Zimmermann could become a major factor and a difference maker over the final three weeks of the season.