Zimmer has surgery, to return in 8-12 months

July 21st, 2018

ARLINGTON -- After broke into the Major Leagues last season, it was easy to dream about what kind of player the imposing center fielder could become for the Indians. Now, Cleveland has to wait the better part of a year to find out if Zimmer will be the same.

Prior to Saturday's game against the Rangers, the Indians announced that Zimmer will need 8-12 months for a return to full baseball activities, following arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder (labrum repair). Dr. Keith Meister performed the procedure on Friday in Dallas.

"I feel so bad for him," Indians manager Terry Francona said on Friday. "He's such a good kid. I don't have any doubt -- he'll come back from this. He's not a pitcher. It's just missing the developmental time. But, OK, so if his clock changes a little bit, that doesn't mean he's not going to be a great player."

Zimmer, who was Cleveland's first-round pick in the 2014 MLB Draft, has hit .237 with a .671 OPS in 135 games over the past two seasons with the Indians. In 34 games this year after being named the Opening Day center fielder, Zimmer hit .226 with a .611 OPS and a 38.6 percent strikeout rate (44 in 114 plate appearances) before being optioned to Triple-A Columbus on June 5.

Zimmer last appeared in a game for the Clippers on June 10. It was around that time that the outfielder experienced discomfort in his right shoulder during one-handed hitting drills. When the pain persisted while throwing, Zimmer was shut down and sent to the team's complex in Arizona to focus on rehabbing the issue. The injury ultimately led to Friday's season-ending surgery.

At the earliest, Zimmer might be ready to return by the end of next Spring Training, barring any setbacks along the way. The longer end of the timetable would put the center fielder on pace for the second half of next season.

Zimmer -- listed at 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds -- was nicknamed "Machine" by his teammates and looked like a player built for Statcast™. He lived up to that description by flashing speed atypical of a player his size. Zimmer's 30.1 Sprint Speed in 2017 ranked tied for ninth in MLB. Zimmer also boasts the hardest-hit ball (114.6 mph on May 30, 2017) by a Cleveland batter in the Statcast™ Era. Last year, he also unleashed a 101.5-mph throw on an assist from center field.

"He's a freak of nature, man," said Tribe reliever , who was teammates with Zimmer at the University of San Francisco. "He's tall, jacked, he's got an arm. He can swing it for average. He can swing it for power. He's fast. He's definitely one of the more freaks of natures that I've played with."

While Zimmer is sidelined, outfielder will continue to get an opportunity in center field for the Indians. Cleveland also has fleet-footed rookie , who is currently with Triple-A Columbus, but has had stints with the Indians this season and a year ago. On the current roster, veteran will also continue to get time in center for the Tribe, which may look into outfield help at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Worth noting

• With two hits off lefty on Friday night, Tribe outfielder now has a .261/.386/.478 slash line in 83 plate appearances against left-handers this year. Among American League hitters with at least 80 plate appearances vs. lefties, Guyer's on-base percentage ranks 13th, his .377 wOBA ranks 16th and his 139 wRC+ ranks 17th.

"He looks dangerous to me again. That's huge," Francona said. "You see where we want to hit him in the order -- right behind Edwin [Encarnacion]. That's a big spot and he looks like he's starting to feel a little dangerous. That's really good."

• Left-hander , who was activated from the disabled list and designated for assignment on July 13, cleared waivers and has been sent outright to Triple-A Columbus. Merritt dealt with shoulder and knee issues, dating back to Spring Training, and has fought through diminished velocity this season. In six starts at Triple-A this year, the lefty has a 5.88 ERA with 20 strikeouts vs. one walk in 26 innings.

"We all have a soft spot for him," Francona said. "It just seemed like it's been a little bit uphill for him so far this year. But, he feels good. Now, he can take a deep breath. He knows where he's going to be and he can go pitch."

• In need of a catcher following the Thursday trade that sent prospect to the Padres, Cleveland has signed Rob Brantly to a Minor League contract and assigned him to Triple-A Columbus. In parts of four MLB seasons with the Marlins and White Sox (2012-17), Brantly has hit .230 with a .628 OPS in 125 games.