Chicago — Inevitably, the conversation got around to baseball mortality.
And Jordan Zimmermann wanted it known that he — his right arm, his career — wasn’t dead yet. Far from it, in fact.
“We’re not robots,” he said. “Anything can happen at any time. I have a lot of mileage on my arm and I understand that…But I got a lot left in the tank. I just turned 32 years old. I am still fairly young.”
Zimmermann will return to the mound for the Tigers Saturday after missing more than a month with a shoulder impingement.
“He’s healthy now, so we will see how he’ll come back,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We hope he can go 75 to 80 pitches; that’s where he’s at. But, as they say, the scoreboard will dictate that.”
Zimmermann has battled neck and shoulder injuries for much of his three seasons in a Tigers uniform. But in his last two starts before a nerve in his shoulder was pinched, causing pain and inflammation, he had thrown 12 scoreless innings, allowing just four hits with 10 strikeouts.
He was asked how close he feels, after making three rehab starts (two at Triple-A Toledo and one at Single-A West Michigan) to being back to that level.
“I feel like I am there,” he said. “Minor league starts are tough to gauge, I guess, but I feel strong. I feel healthy and I feel like I am ready to go.”
Zimmermann is in the third year of a five-year, $110 million contract with the Tigers, and to sit in the dugout night after night, watching his teammates compete and overachieve without being able to contribute — well, it’s been agonizing for him.
“I’m excited to get back on the mound and feel like I am actually part of this team,” he said. “It’s been over a month. When you are on the DL, it doesn’t feel like you are part of the team. I know I am around the guys and stuff like that, but you are not contributing.
“It’ll be nice to get back out there and help these guys try to win some ballgames.”
After the Tigers' 4-3 win Friday, they sent Artie Lewicki, who had made two spot starts in Zimmermann’s place, back to Triple-A Toledo.
“It’s been tough,” Zimmermann said. “Sitting on the bench and watching the way they’re playing the game and winning games, it’s been exciting and fun and you just wish you could be out there every five days.
“It’s been a long two years for me, battling injuries and other things. I hope this is the last one I have to deal with and we can move forward and I won’t ever have to worry about it again.”