Notes: Zimmermann on debut; O's injury updates

February 26th, 2020

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Bruce Zimmermann was a teenager for the Delmon Young Game, still steeped in his childhood Orioles fandom, “hooping and hollering” in his friend’s basement when J.J. Hardy slid home with the winning run on that October day. The Ellicott City, Md., native “grew up with Cal Ripken, with Brian Roberts,” and still remembers when Adam Jones arrived from Seattle. Like so many young Baltimoreans, Zimmermann fantasized about pitching for the Orioles.

That’s what made their 4-3 win over the Braves on Wednesday, “everything I could’ve dreamed of,” Zimmermann said, even if it got off to a rocky start. Getting his first look of camp, Zimmermann allowed a leadoff homer but recovered to complete two innings in his big league spring debut with his hometown team.

“I know there were a lot of people watching,” Zimmermann said. “I was getting a lot of texts yesterday saying good luck. I know some of my friends will give me hell for giving up a first-pitch home run, but besides that, it’s probably a lot of love and support from my family and friends back home."

The ribbing will come because of Braves DH , who took Zimmermann’s first pitch over the left-center-field fence. But Zimmermann settled down from there, working around a pair of hits with the help of two inning-ending double plays. All told, five of the six outs Zimmermann recorded came on the ground against a lineup stocked with Braves regulars. His fastball also hit 94 mph on the stadium gun.

“You put it behind you and try to get back in the dugout as quickly as possible,” Zimmermann said of the homer. “Going back out for the second was like business as usual.”

For the left-handed Zimmermann, that meant flashing the ability that now has him looking like the prize of the July 2018 deal that sent Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day to Atlanta. The Loyola High grad added several ticks of velocity that winter and broke out at Double-A Bowie in 2019, when he posted a 2.58 ERA and 1.20 WHIP for the Baysox. He’s ticketed for Triple-A Norfolk to begin 2020 in all likelihood, after earning a late-summer promotion there last season.

That puts Zimmermann just a stone’s throw from Baltimore. Given the starting depth the Orioles will need this summer, he could be back home before long.

“I think just playing in the big leagues, no matter where you grow up, is a huge deal. Pretty cool if you’re a local kid,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “I think that he’s going to get a real opportunity to show in this camp, and there are a lot of people who are really high on him, so we’ll see.”

From the trainer’s room
More than two weeks in, minor injuries are piling up at Orioles camp. Here is what’s going on with several players yet to appear in Grapefruit League games:

LHP Alex Wells: The Orioles' No. 20 prospect has been held out of games due to a sore right oblique, Hyde said. Given the lingering nature of oblique injuries, it would appear to put Wells’ chances of appearing in Grapefruit League play in jeopardy.

OF Yusniel Díaz: Limited due to a sore right shoulder early in camp, Baltimore’s No. 5 prospect told Monday he expected to debut in games this weekend. Hyde confirmed that timeline Wednesday, when Díaz resumed taking batting practice.

RHP : Neither of Baltimore’s two highest leverage relievers have seen Grapefruit League action because of the flu bug going around the Orioles’ clubhouse. Both are just about over the illness. Givens threw live batting practice Monday and is on track to debut “in the next couple of days,” Hyde said.

RHP Hunter Harvey: Another victim of the flu bug, Harvey threw a bullpen session Monday and was scheduled to be reexamined Wednesday. The 25-year-old is on a slightly slower schedule than Givens. Hyde handicapped his debut for this weekend.

RHP : Two days after Stewart was scratched from his spring debut due to biceps soreness, Hyde said Stewart had progressed enough to play catch Wednesday or Thursday. Hyde said soreness was “going away and he feels good,” indicating Stewart could return to the mound by the weekend. The 25-year-old rotation hopeful will need to in order to avoid falling too far behind the many other candidates in camp.

RHP Brady Rodgers: A non-roster invitee, Rodgers reported biceps soreness during the first week of camp. He is yet to begin throwing, but Hyde said Rodgers was “making progress also.”

About the game
Count among those in Orioles camp tinkering with new pitches, looking to bolster their repertoires. Wojciechowski said he is experimenting with a split-changeup this spring, after relying mainly on his fastball, slider and curve last season. The 31-year-old rotation candidate struck out two and allowed a Travis d’Arnaud solo homer over two innings in his spring debut, which was delayed due to a minor blister issue on his middle finger.

Honoring the past
In celebration of Black History Month and the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum president Bob Kendrick visited Ed Smith Stadium and the Orioles’ Buck O’Neil Minor League complex Wednesday to speak with players about the history of the Negro Leagues and O’Neil’s legacy.

Kendrick threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Orioles infielder , whose grandfather, Walter “Bancy” Thomas, played with Jackie Robinson on the Kansas City Monarchs in 1945.

Up next
Veteran left-hander gets his first crack at the rotation competition when the Orioles return to action Thursday against the Pirates at Ed Smith Stadium. Right-hander Héctor Noesí starts for Pittsburgh in the game, which should feature Trey Mancini and other Orioles regulars. First pitch is set for 1:05 pm ET.