Detroit’s rotation has been without its elder statesmen, injured right-handers Jordan Zimmermann and Tyson Ross, for a large portion of the season. It’s going to stay that way for at least a little while longer, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press explains.
Zimmermann, down since April 26 with a sprained right UCL, pitched a rain-shortened rehab game at the Single-A level Saturday and “just didn’t feel comfortable with his stuff,” manager Ron Gardenhire told Fenech, adding: “He wants to get back into a normal routine before he comes up here and pitches, which is absolutely 100% right. You can’t come up here with below average stuff.”
The 33-year-old Zimmermann will make another rehab stint this week with a to-be-determined affiliate, per Fenech. At this point, it’s unclear how much more time Zimmermann will miss. Barring setbacks, though, a pitcher’s rehab stint is allowed to go on for up to 30 days. Zimmermann’s began June 8.
Ross, 32, hasn’t started a rehab assignment since landing on the injured list May 12 with a nerve issue in his right elbow. He’s now dealing with a stiff neck and won’t return to throwing for “probably five days,” Fenech writes.
Thanks to an unattractive combination of injury and performance woes, Zimmermann and Ross are all but guaranteed to go down as failed free-agent signings for Detroit. Zimmermann parlayed high-end production as a member of the Nationals from 2009-15 into a five-year, $110MM contract with the Tigers heading into 2016, but the union hasn’t worked out at all for the club. Zimmermann owns a 5.29 ERA/4.82 FIP in 427 innings as a Tiger, and the former workhorse hasn’t exceeded 160 frames in a season since signing his deal. The Ross investment’s going to hurt Detroit a lot less, as it only gave him a one-year, $5.75MM guarantee last winter. Still, his woeful numbers – a 6.11 ERA/5.92 FIP with 6.37 K/9 and 4.58 BB/9 in 35 1/3 innings – aren’t what the Tigers had in mind when they signed Ross.
Injuries to starters, not just to Zimmermann and Ross, have been an unfortunate theme for struggling Detroit in 2019. In addition to the absences of Zimmermann and Ross, the Tigers have been without righty Michael Fulmer and lefty Matt Moore for all or most of the season. Fulmer underwent Tommy John surgery before the campaign began, while Moore turned in one and a half excellent starts before undergoing season-ending right knee surgery in mid-April.
With Zimmermann, Ross, Fulmer and Moore unavailable, the Tigers’ rotation has seen a potential ace emerge in Matthew Boyd, though the 28-year-old could be an in-season trade candidate. Meanwhile, fellow 20-somethings Spencer Turnbull and Daniel Norris have also offered encouraging signs. They’re the only members of the Tigers’ rotation who have racked up at least 10 starts this season. Ryan Carpenter and Gregory Soto, who have combined for 10 starts, have joined Zimmermann and Ross in recording horrific production.
In further unwelcome news for the Tigers, one of their top position players, Niko Goodrum, departed Tuesday’s loss to the Royals with “significant” right knee swelling, Chris McCosky of the Detroit News tweets. It’s unclear whether Goodrum will require an IL stint, though. The switch hitter’s batting .233/.315/.393 (90 wRC+) with six homers and seven steals on nine tries through 248 plate appearances. More impressively, the versatile Goodrum has seen action at every position but pitcher and catcher this year.