Cleveland — The question was, why? Why would right-hander Jordan Zimmermann bust his tail just to make another start or two in what is a lost season? What's the point?
“He’s a pitcher and he gets paid to pitch,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “It’s his job. He’s a baseball player. If he’s healthy, he should play baseball. That’s how it works. If he’s not healthy, then that’s a different story.
“We are hopeful he can return and make another start this season. That doesn’t mean he’s going to.”
Zimmermann returned to the team Monday after getting a nerve-blocking injection in his bothersome neck and shoulder area. He got the same injection back in November and it enabled him to make 27 starts this season.
But the pain, which restricted his pitching mechanics, began returning in his neck in his last few starts and sent him back to a neck specialist in Dallas for the injection.
“It’s a little more sore this time than last time,” Zimmermann said. “I don’t remember being this sore. You could tell the shots hit what we were going for.”
Zimmermann made 25 to 30 throws off flat ground Monday, and hopes to throw out to 100 feet Tuesday. He said he still felt a couple of “zingers” in the neck, especially when he had to make abrupt movements to catch the ball.
“It’s going a little slower than I expected and hoped it would go,” he said. “But I guess it’s better to go slower than too fast. I am just going to push to get back as soon as possible. But they are keeping me on a pretty strict schedule.”
Zimmermann said he would like to get two more starts, but that’s looking questionable right now.
“I want to feel the best I can going into the offseason,” he said. “I want to keep adding onto the strength program I’ve been doing and keep adding things. The plan next year is to make it through healthy and get back to pitching like myself again.”
He is under contract for three more years and $74 million, so his recovery is of vital importance to the Tigers.
He was back home, back in the Dallas-Fort Worth area thinking his days in the Tigers’ organization were over. He wasn’t on the 40-man roster, having been designated for assignment and re-signed to a minor-league contract three months ago, and he wasn’t among the September call-ups.
Then on Sunday his phone rang and Tyler Collins was on a flight to Cleveland to join the Tigers.
“I was home and for five days I was in full-on offseason mode,” Collins said. “I had completely shut it down. But it’s just like riding a bike.”
Collins was purchased from Toledo on the recommendation of Mud Hens pitching coach Jeff Pico after Mikie Mahtook was shut down for a few days with a groin injury. Collins finished the Triple-A season on a 9-for-15 tear and hit .333 with a .910 OPS over the final month.
“This is a great thing for my career,” Collins said of the call-up. “If they DFA me again, then I am an unrestricted free agent. If they don’t, then I am here.”
The Tigers cleared a spot of Collins on the 40-man roster by releasing right-hander Arcenio Leon, who at age 30, made his major-league debut with the Tigers this season.
Collins began the season as the Tigers starting right fielder with J.D. Martinez on the disabled list. But he struggled mightily in May, going 5-for-61 with 30 strikeouts. It was a testament to his perseverance that he managed to flip the script at Toledo.
“I really learned to relinquish everything,” Collins said. “This is a gift from God that I have to be able to play baseball. I kept trying to take control of my career and I kept screwing up. So finally I just said, ‘Here You go, man, I’m just following you now.’
“And I just started having fun playing the game again.”
Around the horn
Shortstop Jose Iglesias is expected to rejoin the team in time for the game Wednesday. He went home to Miami for the birth of his second son and got trapped by Hurricane Irma. He’s missed five games. “He’s been out of his house, but he’s going back,” Ausmus said. “He’s trying to get his new baby, his son and his wife back into the house and set up. He will fly out tomorrow but he won’t get here before the game.”
… Outfielder Mikie Mahtook (groin) was still unavailable Monday. He said he felt better and would test the leg again on Tuesday.
… Alex Presley (back) returned to the lineup Monday.