Tigers’ Zimmermann looks for improvement vs. Orioles (May 18, 2017)
DETROIT — The results indicate that Detroit Tigers right-hander Jordan Zimmermann did not show any progress in recent starts. The player who caught him in his last three outings begs to differ.
Dylan Bundy will start for Baltimore, which lost for the fifth time in six games Wednesday, falling 5-4 to Detroit.
Zimmermann (3-2) is saddled with a 6.28 ERA heading into his eighth start this season, a matinee outing Thursday in the finale of a three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles at Comerica Park.
He has allowed at least four runs in five of his past six starts, including his most recent appearance when he gave up five runs (four earned) on 10 hits over 5 1/3 innings against the Los Angeles Angels on Friday.
Catcher Alex Avila felt that Zimmermann’s stuff was actually solid but that the pitcher ran into some tough luck.
“He was throwing the ball really well, I thought,” said Avila, who is likely to be behind the plate once again on Thursday. “His fastball was anywhere from 92 to 94 (mph) and had good movement. His off-speed stuff, he was commanding as well as I’ve seen this year. Overall, I thought he was pitching very well, but he’s kind of had a stretch of bad luck his past few starts.
“The runs he’s been giving up either started or were a result of swinging bunts or broken-bat bloop base hits, things like that, to where he’s making his pitches but he’s not getting the results on an inning-to-inning basis.”
Avila believes it is only a matter of time before Zimmermann, who came into the season as the club’s No. 2 starter, heats up.
“I don’t know if he’s going to come out and throw eight shutout innings or something like that, but you’re going to see him gradually get better where, over a period of time of a couple months and a few starts in a row, he’s going to be pitching really well,” Avila said. “At least that’s what I look for and expect of him, to be able to go through a stretch where he’s going to be pitching well start in and start out.
“His stuff is getting to that point and his command is getting to that point to be able to pitch deeper into games and throw quality pitches and get some weak outs.”
Zimmermann is 2-4 with a 5.82 ERA in seven career starts against the Orioles.
Bundy’s only experience against the Tigers is 1 1/3 innings of shutout relief early last season. He has never pitched at Comerica Park, but he arrives as one of the league’s top starters. Bundy has a 5-1 record and a 2.26 ERA, and he has tossed at least six innings in all eight of his starts.
“Just doing my job, just competing,” Bundy said. “Just try to go as deep as you can every game as a starter and keep your team in the game the whole time.”
Bundy made 36 appearances last season, 14 as a starter, and wound up 10-6 with a 4.02 ERA. He lasted six or more innings just three times in those starts.
“Last year, I spent the first half of the season in the bullpen and transitioned into the starting rotation,” he said. “I got my feet wet a little bit last year, and this spring training was a little easier, a little bit more comfortable. I went into the spring more with a starter’s mentality rather than worrying about being in the bullpen.”
He won’t have to worry about facing Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera. The Tigers first baseman was a late scratch Wednesday and was diagnosed with a Grade 1 oblique strain. He is expected to miss two to three days.