CLEVELAND -- Jordan Zimmermann once pitched in a college game for Wisconsin-Stevens Point with his jaw wired shut and two metal plates holding it together after a line drive shattered it. That was 11 years ago, and he was drafted that summer. Mercifully, he won't have to go through that
CLEVELAND -- Jordan Zimmermann once pitched in a college game for Wisconsin-Stevens Point with his jaw wired shut and two metal plates holding it together after a line drive shattered it. That was 11 years ago, and he was drafted that summer. Mercifully, he won't have to go through that experience again.
Though the Tigers starter took a liner to the same spot on his right jaw Wednesday, knocking him out of his start against the Indians in the first inning, Zimmermann was diagnosed with just a bruise, not a fracture, and expects to be able to make his next scheduled start on Tuesday.
"Obviously it could've been worse," said Zimmermann, his right jaw swollen as he spoke in the Tigers' clubhouse after the 5-1 loss. "It could've been a break, but it still didn't really feel that great. I'm sure it'll be worse tomorrow. I'll be good to go next time around."
The news was a massive relief to teammates and coaches who were shaken watching the incident.
"He was joking around, definitely swelling in the face," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's been checked out, and so far everything's good. We'll know more tomorrow. We believe that it probably won't even be a DL stint. He'll probably be able to make his next start, which we're very fortunate for that. He was very lucky.
"It was a scary moment; I think we all saw that."
The incident happened on Zimmermann's seventh pitch of the game. Jason Kipnis hit it back up the middle at an exit velocity of 105.6 mph, according to Statcast™. Zimmermann tried to get his glove up in time but had no chance. He was able to turn his head, taking the blow off the side rather than straight ahead. The ball also hit off his shoulder, leaving a mark.
"I saw it coming for a second and then I felt it," Zimmermann said. "I went down and just felt all my teeth were there and my jaw wasn't peeled in like the first time it happened. So I think I got lucky. The first time I broke it back in college, they put a couple plates in there and the doc told me you'll never break it again. Put it to the test tonight and everything came back just fine."
The ball bounced to first base, where Jose Cabrera fielded it for the out. Zimmermann was down in clear pain as catcher James McCann ran out from behind home plate and head athletic trainer Doug Teter raced out from the dugout. Kipnis was emotional at first base, his hands on his head, watching the situation unfold.
"You never want that," Kipnis said. "Everyone's out there competing. You want it to be decided by talent and skill and all the other stuff. You don't want it to be because someone got injured or anything like that, so you never root for anyone to get injured."
Zimmermann was able to get up after a few moments and walk to the dugout. Daniel Norris replaced him in relief.
"It was a scary moment, tough just to walk off like that," Kipnis said. "He's got a strong jaw."
Zimmermann passed Major League Baseball's concussion protocol, according to the Tigers. X-rays came back negative.
"When I knew all my teeth were there and my jaw and stuff wasn't peeled in like it was in 2007, I knew there was a good chance I'd be fine," Zimmermann said. "Just came out of the game, got the concussion stuff figured out and everything checked out. I'll be good to go in five days."
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.