"He's the veteran guy here. We picked him up for this reason and ... to me he's the leader of this group," Gardenhire said. "I think he's the guy that should have the ball."
Zimmermann, 31, is coming off his worst Major League season. He went 8-13 with a 6.08 ERA in his second season with Detroit after signing a five-year contract. He has an 87-70 lifetime record over nine seasons.
Zimmermann put together his best outing of the spring last time out, a five-inning appearance against the Yankees on Tuesday in which he gave up two hits in five shutout innings. He has a 1-0 record this spring with a 4.15 ERA in 13 innings.