The Detroit Tigers are fighting for a playoff spot. They currently trail the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central, but are just one game behind the Baltimore Orioles for the second Wild Card spot in the AL. Fortunately for them, their ace is about to return from the disabled list.
Jordan Zimmermann has been on the disabled list since August 5. He’s had a reoccurring neck injury this season that has caused him to miss significant time. The 30-year old right-hander was sidelined for the whole month of July due the injury. Zimmermann then came back for one start, but he re-aggravated his neck and had to miss more time.
It appears as though Zimmermann is finally healthy however. The Tigers activated him from the disabled list on Tuesday. He’s scheduled to start tomorrow night against the Orioles. This will be a crucial game for both teams, as they are in a tight Wild Card race with each other.
The Tigers need Zimmermann now more than ever. Over the past few years, he’s been one of the better pitchers in baseball. In 2013 while with the Washington Nationals, he won an NL-leading 19 games. The next season, he went 14-5 with a 2.66 ERA. Detroit signed him to a five-year, $110 million contract this past offseason. Zimmermann’s first year with the Tigers has been disrupted by injuries. Additionally, he hasn’t exactly pitched very well when he’s been healthy.
Overall, he’s 9-5 with a 4.44 ERA this season. That’s not exactly what you would expect out of a $110 million dollar pitcher. Zimmermann has to be a cut a little slack though. The neck injury has clearly impacted him. When he came back for that one start on August 4, he was not himself. He allowed six earned runs in just 1.2 innings. This increased his ERA from 3.95 to 4.44.
It doesn’t really matter how Zimmermann has pitched so far in 2016. All that matters now is how he performs over these last few weeks of the season. Even though he was struggling before the injury, it’s not like he hasn’t pitched well at all this season. In fact, Zimmermann did not allow a single earned run over his first three starts of the year. He only surrendered two earned runs in the entire month of April. This is the Jordan Zimmermann that we are accustomed to seeing.
If Zimmermann can be as dominant as he was earlier in the season, then the Tigers have a good chance at making the playoffs. It all starts tomorrow night against the Orioles.