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Zimmermann settling in to veteran role on staff

@beckjason
July 4, 2020

DETROIT -- Not much fazes the Tigers’ quartet of top-rated pitching prospects. Jordan Zimmermann might be in their heads. When the Tigers put together a virtual Happy Hour zoom call in June with Casey Mize, Matt Manning, Alex Faedo and catcher Jake Rogers for the team’s Facebook channel, they were

DETROIT -- Not much fazes the Tigers’ quartet of top-rated pitching prospects. Jordan Zimmermann might be in their heads.

When the Tigers put together a virtual Happy Hour zoom call in June with Casey Mize, Matt Manning, Alex Faedo and catcher Jake Rogers for the team’s Facebook channel, they were asked what would be their ultimate golf foursome. Manning and Faedo instantly mentioned Zimmermann.

“That guy’s my dad,” Manning joked.

“That guy’s the best,” Faedo said.

At some point during the first version of Spring Training, before the coronavirus pandemic shut things down, apparently Zimmermann invited Manning and Faedo to go hunting with him in Wisconsin after the season.

“It’ll be an experience,” Faedo said.

“He’s going to send us out in the woods and be like, ‘Hey, I’ll be back in 30 minutes,’” Manning said.

Zimmermann smiled when the story was relayed to him Saturday.

“We got past the intimidating stages, I think,” he said. “Those guys were scared to talk to me at first, and now they come to my locker pretty much every day and come chat with me. Anything I can do to help them out is what I’m here for.”

While Matthew Boyd has been an advisor with the Tigers’ pitching prospects, including group texts over the past few months to trade workout ideas, Zimmermann is the elder statesman of the staff. He just turned 34, and he has parts of 11 seasons in the Majors under his belt. He has had to transform his pitching style along the way, from the fastball-pounding strike-thrower he used to be to the sinkerballer he is working to become.

Zimmermann is also entering the final season of his five-year contract. Between the emergence of Boyd and Daniel Norris, the return of Michael Fulmer and the anticipated arrival of the prospects, this is likely Zimmermann’s final season as a Tiger. With the season now at 60 games, he likely has a dozen starts at most. He wants to make the best of them.

“I don’t think I have really anything to prove. I just want to finish this last year staying off the [injured list],” Zimmermann said. “I guess that’s my main goal, to make it through these two months and not have any flareups or any issues with my neck or elbow or back, anything that’s popped up along the way the last four years. For me, the biggest thing is just to stay healthy.”

In that sense, a short season might be a blessing. Zimmermann has had stretches where he has pitched well in each of his four seasons in Detroit. When things turned for the worst, it was usually due to injuries, often the neck and back issues for which he has taken nerve block injections. He hasn’t needed those this year while working out in Wisconsin.

And after the season, he’ll probably be in a stand in the woods, hunting, maybe with Faedo and Manning.

“I’d like to take them up here, but I don’t know if [Faedo’s] ever even held a gun or seen a gun before,” Zimmermann joked, getting his response. “It might be a little dangerous.”

Tigers could play exhibitions
The Tigers will play a handful of intrasquad games at Summer Camp, but they’re also eyeing a couple games against an opponent before opening the season.

“We are working on that, to play a couple exhibition games with a team before we start [the season],” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We’re going to probably play four or five [intrasquad] games, if we can weather-wise, the whole package.”

Gardenhire would not say which team they’re talking with.

“I don’t want to get [general manager] Al [Avila] mad at me,” Gardenhire said. “I’m not announcing that.”

Quick hits
• While no one with the Tigers has elected not to take part in the season yet, including coaches, Gardenhire said he has left it up to his staff. Gardenhire, 62, has three coaches over age 60 in pitching coach Rick Anderson, hitting coach Joe Vavra and bench coach Lloyd McClendon.

“I’m battling through it myself,” Gardenhire said. “I want to be here. I also know the risks. I worry about those. I’ve told them, ‘If you have any reservations about this, if you don’t feel comfortable doing it, you can walk up to me and tell me and we’ll talk to Al and go from there.' This is serious stuff. We all know it.”

• While top Draft pick Spencer Torkelson was the headline of Saturday’s workout with his first batting practice, second-round pick Dillon Dingler had a busy day as well. The former Ohio State catcher took batting practice as well, then got behind the plate for Casey Mize’s bullpen session.

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