Lakeland, Fla. -- Early Sunday morning, Ron Gardenhire officially announced that Jordan Zimmermann will be the Tigers’ Opening Day starter for the second straight season. He will duel with the Blue Jays' Marcus Stroman on Thursday in Toronto.
“Andy (pitching coach Rick Anderson) had it set up a long time ago,” Gardenhire said. “We talked about it and I told him, ‘You are the pitching coach, you tell me who you want.’ And he said, ‘Zimm’s the guy. He’s the veteran guy, been around and done it. He’ll handle it the best.'”
Zimmermann, who had core muscle surgery after last season, had a productive spring, adding a usable curveball and change-up to his pitch mix.
“This is pretty much where I expected to be if I had a healthy spring,” Zimmermann said. “The body feels real good going into the regular season. I am ready, ready to go play some meaningful games.”
On Friday, the Tigers released veteran catcher Bobby Wilson. On Sunday, Wilson re-signed with the club on a minor-league deal.
"We were really hoping he would do that," Gardenhire said. "We really like him as a catcher. He's a great receiver and he handles the pitching staff really well. We are really happy he's back.
"I know he had some offers but he chose to stay with us."
Wilson will likely start the season at Toledo. But the Tigers envision back-up catcher John Hicks getting more time at first base or designated hitter as the season wears on. It's a strong bet Wilson will be back in the big leagues for long stretches this season.
Speaking of Hicks, he took an errant warm-up pitch from Daniel Norris in the mouth Sunday and chipped a tooth.
The Tigers also have Cameron Rupp in camp. It's unclear what the re-signing of Wilson means for him.
Miguel Cabrera continues to pound the baseball this spring. He doubled and homered in three at-bats and knocked in four runs. His home run, off a 93-mph fastball, hit off the batter’s eye in center field. He is 15 for 46 this spring, with five homers, three doubles and 15 RBIs.
… Leadoff hitter Josh Harrison got on base in all three of his at-bats, two walks and a double, and he scored three times. He went first to third on a rolling single to left by Nick Castellanos in the first inning, then scored on a shallow fly ball to center. In the second inning, he scored from first on Cabrera’s double.
… Mikie Mahtook, who started in center field, smashed his third home run of the spring, a cannonading blast that sailed beyond both the berm and patio deck in left field.
… Center field prospect Daz Cameron, who is expected to start the season at Toledo, lined a grand slam that just cleared the wall in left field, capping an eight-run sixth inning.
… Blaine Hardy struck out the side in the seventh inning.
Gardenhire said he expects the roster to be set Monday after the exhibition game. Barring any more mishaps, it could look something like this:
Rotation (in presumed order): Jordan Zimmermann, Matthew Boyd, Spencer Turnbull, Matt Moore, Tyson Ross. Michael Fulmer is on the 60-day IL.
Bullpen: Shane Greene (closer), Joe Jimenez (late inning set-up), Victor Alcantara, Blaine Hardy (LHP), Buck Farmer, Daniel Stumpf (LHP), Daniel Norris (LHP), Reed Garrett (Rule 5). Drew VerHagen (forearm strain) expected to start the season on the injured list.
Catchers: Grayson Greiner, John Hicks.
Infielders: Miguel Cabrera, Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer, Jeimer Candelario.
Utility: Niko Goodrum, Gordon Beckham.
Outfielders: Christin Stewart, Mikie Mahtook, Nick Castellanos, Dustin Peterson. JaCoby Jones (strained left shoulder) on the injured list.