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Hit hard, Zimmermann tries useful adjustment

MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- It couldn't get any worse, Jordan Zimmermann figured.

The Dodgers had pummeled him for six runs and nine hits over four innings. He had drawn 11 swinging strikes, including four strikeouts, but the Dodgers were making contact with an average exit velocity of 94.4 mph, according to Statcast™. So as he worked through the Dodgers' lineup for a third time, Zimmermann moved his back foot from the third-base side of the pitching rubber to the first-base side, something he had never tried in his career.

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DETROIT -- It couldn't get any worse, Jordan Zimmermann figured.

The Dodgers had pummeled him for six runs and nine hits over four innings. He had drawn 11 swinging strikes, including four strikeouts, but the Dodgers were making contact with an average exit velocity of 94.4 mph, according to Statcast™. So as he worked through the Dodgers' lineup for a third time, Zimmermann moved his back foot from the third-base side of the pitching rubber to the first-base side, something he had never tried in his career.

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"I've got to try something," Zimmermann shrugged after Friday's 8-5 Tigers loss. "I decided to move over and try it. It can't get any worse than it is."

It did not get worse. Whether it results in any meaningful improvement will be easier to tell with more starts, beginning next week against the Yankees. But when he retired six Dodgers in a row from the fourth inning through the fifth, the veteran had at least some sign of encouragement.

He has had those before. Zimmermann had three consecutive seven-inning quality starts before the Twins roughed him up last Saturday. He has now surrendered 14 runs on 18 hits over 8 2/3 innings in his last two starts, raising his ERA for the season from 5.27 to 5.87.

Zimmermann might not have been as effective as the numbers suggested during that three-start stretch, he said Friday. He struggled to pitch inside to left-handed hitters, a trend that followed him into his latest start. While he pounded the inside corner in stretches, he gave up damage in the middle of the strike zone and out, much of it elevated. He recorded only one groundout all evening, and that was by Chris Taylor to begin the game.

Zimmermann had relative success with his slider Friday, drawing eight swings and misses over 30 pitches, according to Baseball Savant, with a lone hit allowed. But he paid dearly for missed location on fastballs, giving up six hits, with another three off the curveball.

"The majority of the time, when he's pitching well, he has the breaking ball, one or both [of slider and curveball]," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said.

Once Zimmermann shifted to the first-base side of the rubber, he felt better with his curveball. He threw three in a row to strike out left-handed hitter Adrian Gonzalez to end the fifth inning. Just a few inches of difference laterally, he said, felt greater around the strike zone.

Zimmermann's best theory why it makes such a difference is that he fell out of his better mechanics when he dealt with his neck issues last year. He doesn't feel pain, he said, but just feels a struggle to get his pitches inside to left-handed hitters and outside to righties.

"It feels like I almost have to throw it to the other dugout to get it over there," Zimmermann said.

He'll work on figuring that out more in the offseason, he said. For now, he hopes a shift on the mound can help him get results until then.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, Jordan Zimmermann