Tigers put Zimmermann on 45-day injured list; scramble is on to fill rotation
Detroit – It was just a couple of weeks ago on a Zoom video chat that veteran right-hander Jordan Zimmermann said his lone goal for 2020 was to get through the season injury-free.
Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said Saturday that Zimmermann will be placed on the 45-day injured list. He was scratched from his scheduled intrasquad start Friday after feeling tightness in his right forearm.
“He’s going to go through a rehab,” Gardenhire said. “He’d play catch a couple of times and felt fine and then it started to get sore. But I know in his mind, he’s going to try to get back here before the season is over.”
Zimmermann, 34, is in the final year of his contract and will make a prorated percentage of $25 million ($7 million).
“It’s tough,” Gardenhire said. “He likes to be in the clubhouse with the guys, he likes playing baseball and taking the ball every fifth day. But arm-wise, there’s a lot of innings on that arm and he’s had to deal with a lot of things. But he’s been very professional.
“This isn’t exactly the way he wanted it, but he understands our problems with the season starting and the roster and those kinds of things. We just want to try and get him better so somewhere down the road maybe he can get back out there. I know he wants to show people he can still pitch.”
Zimmermann is the second Tigers’ starting pitcher to go on the injured list, joining Daniel Norris, who is in the MLB COVID-19 protocol.
“Norris is the question,” Gardenhire said. “Where is he at as far as his arm and mind? We know he’s been working out, that’s for sure. But there is a difference between working out and getting on the mound. When we finally get him in here we will know a lot more about how we’re going to go.”
With the season opening in Cincinnati on Friday, Gardenhire, general Al Avila and his staff are working through contingencies. It is possible that Michael Fulmer, who looked strong in a three-inning, 45-pitch live batting practice session Saturday, and left Tyler Alexander are candidates to fill rotation spots.
The Tigers have also stretched out non-roster right-handers Dario Agrazal and Shao-Ching Chiang, as well as Rule 5 rookie Rony Garcia.
Gardenhire said among the scenarios under consideration is to use either an opener strategy or just straight piggy-back starts when the fourth and fifth days of the rotation roll around.
“Oh yeah, we are definitely thinking about that,” he said. “This is a different time and with all the injuries we’ve had, we’re trying to put together a staff that will be workable, without killing anybody trying to stretch them out.
"We have three legit guys who can go out there every fifth day and get after it (Matthew Boyd, Spencer Turnbull and Ivan Nova). The rest we're just going to have to ad-lib with it, and try to put a bullpen together, too."
No. 1 prospect Casey Mize may be the most creditable option to join the rotation, but the Tigers will likely wait seven days before bringing him up to avoid using a year of his MLB service time on a truncated, 60-game season.
Regardless, the Tigers pitching staff is losing one of its leaders and mentors.
“With everything he’s done for this organization, being a leader, this really stinks what’s happened to him,” Fulmer said. “Hopefully he takes these 45 days of rehab and comes back feeling great. He’s just been a blessing for this starting rotation.
“The young guys here are asking him questions and he’s been there for them every step of the way. And for myself, (Matthew) Boyd, and Norris, too, we can’t thank him enough. Hopefully, he will rehab the heck out of this thing and come back and join us.”