Oakland, Calif. — Considering there was no drama during Sunday’s bullpen session, the Tigers are at least entertaining notions that Jordan Zimmermann is all but back in their rotation.
He threw 25 pregame pitches Sunday at Oakland Coliseum, where the A’s later knocked off the Tigers, 4-2.
It was an outing that suggested Zimmermann has shaken off a groin strain that cost him one start and threatened to cancel a second.
“We’ll see how he feels (Monday),” said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who along with Tigers trainers will assess Zimmermann and how he rebounds from Sunday’s work.
Should there be no setbacks, Ausmus hinted Zimmermann would start, perhaps as early as Wednesday’s road game against the Angels. If there are complications, Zimmermann will go on the disabled list.
“We’ll know on Tuesday,” Ausmus said.
The Tigers haven’t decided on a starter for Wednesday’s game. Zimmermann is an option. So, too, is rookie Michael Fulmer, although the Tigers are in no hurry to boost his innings and pitch-counts and would appreciate any chance to give him an extra day of rest.
Another possibility — although remote — is Shane Greene. He continues to rehab at Triple A Toledo and is expected to start Tuesday night’s game for the Mud Hens. But in the event Zimmermann must be held back, Ausmus hasn’t ruled out that Greene — he has been gone since April 24 with a finger blister — could rejoin the team soon, perhaps as early as Wednesday.
The big hit Sunday wasn’t all that big.
It was a blooped single to center in the sixth inning by A’s pinch-hitter — and longtime Tigers tormentor — Billy Butler. The hit delivered a pair of runs that put the A’s ahead, 3-2, and wiped out what had been a 2-0 lead for the Tigers.
The ball’s flight and audio response from the moment of impact was not exactly conventional.
Sound is part of a defender’s response and the ball had the timbre of a solidly hit pitch.
The ball also appeared to die a sudden death as Cameron Maybin raced in, dived, and failed to snare it before it fell safely on Oakland Coliseum’s turf.
“It certainly wasn’t misplayed,” said Ausmus, who was adamant that Maybin hadn’t gotten a late break or been at fault.
“I think I read it right,” said Maybin, who was following orders and playing Butler deep. “Stuff happens in a game.”
It was last season, Aug. 12 to be precise, when he was pitching for the Twins that Mike Pelfrey last won a baseball game.
He nearly got one Sunday before a three-run sixth turned around a game and destroyed any chance he, or the Tigers, would win in what ended as a 4-2 defeat.
Pelfrey was pitching Sunday in a manner expected when the Tigers signed him last December to a two-year, $16-million deal. He had sailed through the fifth. He had been nicked for only four hits and no runs. He had walked none and struck out three.
But then came the sixth. A leadoff walk. A pair of hits. . A muffed grounder at second. A bloop single.
Three unearned runs. And another sixth-inning fade by a pitcher, and a team, which so often in 2016 have seen the sixth explode on them.
“That’s the one thing that bothers me,” Pelfrey said, standing stoically in front of cameras and answering questions afterward. “For some reason I’m struggling to get through the sixth.”
Pelfrey had otherwise been cruising, thanks to his usual mix of sinkers and secondary pitches that had kept the A’s on ice.
He was one pitch, or one play, from escaping the sixth.
“If he’d have gotten the next hitter (third out), he’d have been back in the seventh,” Ausmus said. “His pitch-count was real low.”
But there would be no seventh for Pelfrey.
And, once again, no victory.
ON DECK: ANGELS
Series: Three games, Angel Stadium, Anaheim, Calif.
First pitch: 9:05 Monday, 10:05 p.m. Tuesday, 7:05 p.m. Wednesday
Series probables: Monday — RHP Justin Verlander (4-4, 4.02) vs. RHP Jhoulys Chacin (0-1, 4.67); Tuesday — RHP Anibal Sanchez (3-6, 6.04) vs. LHP Hector Santiago (3-3, 4.58); Wednesday — TBA vs. RHP Matt Shoemaker (3-5, 5.96).
RHP Justin Verlander, Tigers: Nothing new here. Verlander’s throwing beautifully, if not as spectacularly as he did during his Cy Young days. Can still heat it up, but uses four pitches with savvy and let’s his defense do its part.
RHP Jhoulys Chacin, Angels: Former workhorse in the National League in his first season with the Angels. Loves ground balls and has a repertoire geared toward sinking four-seam and two-seam fastballs. Not a strikeout guy. Tigers will get their swings.