Posted on August 3, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
The Detroit Tigers did not make a big move at the trade deadline, but they’re about to add a frontline starter to their rotation anyway. Jordan Zimmermann is expected to be activated from the DL and start for the Tigers Thursday when they close out a series with the Chicago White Sox. Zimmermann missed all of July with a neck strain, but now appears to be healthy and ready to pitch the final two months of the season for a team that’s very much in the hunt for a playoff spot.
Zimmermann has made two rehab starts at triple-A, throwing four innings in each outing and allowing one earned run over those eight innings. He threw a bullpen session on Tuesday and felt fine afterwards, allowing the Tigers to make plans to bring him back from the DL. However, manager Brad Ausmus says he will be limited to 90 pitches right now.
“Jordan Zimmermann was outstanding until he pulled his groin, and the neck muscle came along,” Tigers GM Al Avila said last week about the return of one of Detroit’s best pitchers. “So you’ve got to figure if he comes back healthy and gets back to form, he doesn’t have to pitch as great as he was at the beginning, but he just has to go out there and be the regular Jordan Zimmermann.”
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The return of Zimmermann will coincide with Mike Pelfrey going on the DL on Tuesday after he left his start on Sunday with a back issue. Zimmermann will essentially takeover Pelfrey’s place in the rotation, which for the Tigers should be an upgrade, as Pelfrey is just 4-9 with a 4.76 ERA this season.
Zimmermann figures to team up with Justin Verlander and Michael Fulmer to form a strong triumvirate atop Detroit’s starting rotation. Depth in the rotation has been an issue for the Tigers all season, but with Zimmermann back they at least figure to have three starters they can depend on from start to start. Daniel Norris is also working his way back into form after spending a month on the DL. Detroit appears to be in no rush to bring him back to the majors, but he does give them another option if they wish to take it.
Even amidst an uneven starting rotation, the Tigers are currently on a seven-game winning streak that has brought them within three games of the first place Cleveland Indians in the AL Central and within a half game of the second wild card spot. The return of Zimmermann on Thursday will be akin to trading for a quality starting pitcher at the deadline and could go a long way towards the Tigers keeping up their winning ways and staying in contention for a playoff spot the rest of the season.