TODAY: Jordan Zimmermann is dealing with the same sort of forearm soreness that sapped him of much of the 2019 season, per Chris McCosky of The Detroit News. If he can stay healthy – a big if – Zimmermann would look to make the most of a short season by proving his arm still plays at the major league level. This will be the final year of the five-year, $110MM pact he signed with the Tigers before the 2016 season.
It’s been a tough couple of years for Zimmermann, who will end his contract without ever making 30 starts in a season after doing so in each of his final four seasons with the Nationals. Despite the precipitous drop in performance, the Tigers were nonetheless turning to Zimmermann as a veteran stopgap in a rotation that will soon be overrun by high-upside prospects like Tarik Skubal, Matt Manning, Franklin Perez, Casey Mize, and Joey Wentz. The rotation is already without Daniel Norris, who has yet to pitch in camp after testing positive for coronavirus.
In the meantime, the Tigers are scrambling to fill out the rotation behind ace Matthew Boyd. Veteran Ivan Nova was brought in to soak up innings (34 starts, 187 innings in 2019), and Spencer Turnbull figures to slot in somewhere in the middle of the rotation after a mostly-strong showing in 2019. Turnbull went 3-17 last season with a 4.61 ERA/3.99 FIP. He’s done a nice job of limiting long balls throughout his two seasons in the majors, and if he can improve upon some control issues that led to an AL-high 16 hit batters and 3.6 BB/9, the Tigers hope Turnbull can level off his 4.76 career ERA and land closer to his 3.88 career FIP mark.
Beyond those three, the Tigers are working on extending the innings of Dario Agrazal, Shao-Ching Chiang, Hector Santiago, and Tyler Alexander to potentially fill out the rotation. Former Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer also has a chance to get some rotation innings, writes McCosky. Fulmer missed all of 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Of the youngsters in camp, Mize probably has the best shot of cracking the rotation. Under normal circumstances, Mize would be ticketed for Triple-A after 22 starts with a 2.55 ERA in Double-A last year, but without minor league games to further his development, count Mize among the many young stars with a slightly better chance of breaking into the big leagues sometime during the shortened 2020 season. Seven days on the taxi squad will be enough for the Tigers to secure an extra year of service time, notes McCosky, but manager Ron Gardenhire doesn’t plan on making any official decisions until knowing more about the health of Zimmermann and Norris.