Tigers made acquiring Zimmermann 'top priority'
Righty now expanding repertoire
Jordan Zimmermann, pictured pitching for the Washington Nationals in 2015, made a switch to the American League in signing with the Detroit Tigers. This spring, he's hoping to finally add a changeup to his repertoire.
DAVID ZALUBOWSKI/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
By Dick Scanlon
Ledger correspondent – theledger.com
LAKELAND — Jordan Zimmermann wasn’t considered much of a prospect 12 years ago when he came out of high school in Auburndale, Wis., population 829.
He had no scholarship offers and figured he would try football first.
“I was just trying to play the college game, and I didn’t have any teams interested, so I just stayed local and looked at (Stevens) Point, only 20 minutes from home,” he said. “I played three sports so I didn’t really have any time to get in the weight room and do all that stuff.”
Something changed his mind about football, which appears to have been a good decision given the $110 million contract Zimmermann signed in November with the Tigers.
“I played in the Northwoods League for the Eau Claire Express, and I pitched really well there that summer,” he recalled. “That’s where scouts started noticing me, after my sophomore year in college.”
The Washington Nationals drafted him in the second round in 2007, and two years later he was pitching in the big leagues. According to the Washington Post, Zimmermann is the first player drafted by the Nationals to make it all the way from the draft to free agency with that franchise.
He pitched almost 1,100 innings for Washington, and the Tigers hope — perhaps need — to get 200 more from him this season.
“The biggest thing was they were interested from the start, and kind of made me the top priority,” Zimmermann said Sunday after the Tigers’ second organized workout for pitchers and catchers. “The other teams wanted to see where (David) Price would go and if they could get (Zack) Greinke and those guys, and if they couldn’t, they’d fall back on me. The Tigers made it loud and clear that I was the guy they were looking for.”
He has never pitched at Comerica Park, and only one of his 178 starts was against the Tigers. Brad Ausmus saw him pitch before he became Detroit’s manager and recalled Zimmermann as “a competitor, he’s not scared on the mound, he’s very confident. Good mound presence.”
Over the last four seasons, the 29-year-old right-hander did not miss a turn in the rotation and went 62-39 with a 3.13 earned run average. His 3.32 lifetime ERA is eighth among active pitchers.
And if all goes well, he might have a new pitch come April to go with his fastball, slider and curve. Shortly after his arrival at Tigertown, pitching coach Rich Dubee showed Zimmermann a changeup technique.
“A changeup has been a project since I’ve been a freshman in college,” he said. “He showed me this and it actually feels comfortable coming out. I have better control and command with it, so hopefully it keeps getting better and I’ll have something else to offer this year.”
The Eau Claire Express are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. Playing its 23rd season of summer collegiate baseball in 2016, the Northwoods League is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 18 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires and front office staff, more than 120 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (WAS) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (CWS), Jordan Zimmermann (DET), Curtis Granderson (NYM), Lucas Duda (NYM) and Ben Zobrist (CHC). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League Website. For more information, visit www.eauclaireexpress.com.