Detroit — Jordan Zimmermann’s search to regain the form that earned him the $110 million contract from the Tigers 17 months ago continues — and there is new evidence that he’s found something.
On paper, his five-inning win Sunday against the White Sox will look pedestrian — seven hits, three runs, two walks. But if you watched it, especially his work in innings two through four, you saw some very encouraging signs.
His slider was sharper, with more bite than it has had. It had some real depth to it. Also, he was getting swings and misses again. According to Baseball Savant, he got 11 swings and misses — four on his slider, four on his change-up.
“I just felt a lot more comfortable out there,” he said. “If you’d asked me three starts ago, when I was struggling, I’d tell you no. I was just all over the place. Today I had a lot better feel, throwing 0-2 pitches in the dirt, where they’re supposed to be.
“That was definitely a good sign.”
Manager Brad Ausmus pulled Zimmermann aside and had a talk with him earlier in the week. Then Zimmermann went back and reviewed video of his dominant days with the Nationals. He spotted something he was doing then that he’d stopped doing in the aftermath of his groin, neck and shoulder injuries last season.
“It was a pretty easy fix,” he said. “Today, I still fell into some of the same bad habits a few times. I actually felt it when I was out there. Like, I threw the pitch, and didn’t feel right. That’s a positive sign.”
The change was in the placement of his hands in his delivery.
“It was how I was coming set, and how my hands were,” he said. “As I went through my windup, I’d drop my hands a little bit. They’ve always been up high, and stay up high. (Dropping the hands) doesn’t allow my arm to catch up.
“And when your arm doesn’t catch up, you’re going to be inconsistent with the fastball.”
His command was still spotty Sunday, but considering it was just one start after the fix, it’s a sound beginning.
“It’s all about commanding the fastball,” he said. “Even today, I was a little off with the fastball. I was flying open a little bit, and falling back into similar bad habits. It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to take a little time, a few starts, to get back to where I was.”
The Jim-John Show
Jim Adduci and John Hicks, two players who weren’t on the Tigers’ 25-man radar in spring training, have made invaluable contributions filling in for injured sluggers J.D. Martinez and Miguel Cabrera.
Adduci had an RBI double and Hicks posted two singles and an RBI in the Tigers’ 7-3 win. Since being called up from Toledo nine days ago, they are a combined 19-for- 46 (.413) with six doubles, a triple, home run and 10 RBIs.
“They’ve been a tremendous help, especially offensively,” Ausmus said. “They’ve filled in for some pretty good offensive players. It gives us a little flexibility with a left-handed bat (Adduci) and a right-handed bat (Hicks).
“We can move guys around, whereas normally, we have just a set lineup. But the games we won, they’ve been a bit part of the offense.”
Both understand their time may not be long with the Tigers. Cabrera is on pace to come back Tuesday and Martinez could join the team on upcoming West Coast trip.
“My first time in the big leagues didn't go this way and last year I had one at-bat,” Hicks said. “So to get up here and be able to help and produce is a great feeling. And it's a confidence booster to prove to myself and to prove to everyone that I can hit up here and I can help the team.”
He said he never had any delusions about replacing Cabrera.
“I think if you go try to be the Triple Crown winner — you can't be Miggy, and there's no one in baseball that can be Miggy except Miggy,” he said. “For me, I just try to go be myself and try to help.”
Jimenez down, Bell up
After Sunday’s game, the Tigers sent right-hander Joe Jimenez to Triple-A Toledo and called up left-hander Chad Bell.
Jimenez, in his last outing Friday gave up a two-run home run to Tim Anderson and has allowed six runs in four innings.
But the impetus for the move was to have another left-handed arm available to face the Indians, who come to Comerica Park for four games. Bell was starting for the Mud Hens and allowed just three earned runs in 212/3 innings, with 25 strikeouts.
Lefty Blaine Hardy, who threw 31 pitches Saturday, threw another 15 Sunday and likely won’t be available until Tuesday.
The Indians rank 25th in Major League Baseball hitting .218 against left-handed pitching.
Around the horn
J.D. Martinez (foot) had treatment days scheduled for Saturday and Sunday after going 3-for-9 in an extended spring game Friday. Depending on how he feels, he could play in another game on Monday.
… JaCoby Jones (lacerated lip) has gone 2-for-10 in three rehab starts at Toledo.
Indians at Tigers
Series: Four games, Monday-Thursday, Comerica Park, Detroit
First pitch: 7:10 Monday-Wednesday; 1:10 Thursday
TV/radio: All four games on FSD, Thursday also on MLBN; all four games on 97.1
Series probables: Monday — RHP Trevor Bauer (2-2, 6.26) vs. LHP Daniel Norris (1-2, 4.71); Tuesday — RHP Corey Kluber (3-1, 4.19) vs. RHP Justin Verlander (1-2. 4.60); Wednesday — RHP Carlos Carrasco (2-2, 2.04) vs. LHP Matthew Boyd (2-1, 3.86); Thursday — RHP Danny Salazar (2-2, 4.34) vs. RHP Michael Fulmer (2-1, 3.19)
Bauer, Indians: He’s allowed 16 earned runs in 23 innings, including five home runs. The Tigers got him for six runs, two homers, on April 14.
Norris, Tigers: He is 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA in four starts vs. the Indians, including throwing six shutout, two-innings against them April 14.