DETROIT — Exactly one month after being placed on the disabled list with a right neck strain, Jordan Zimmermann is back with the Detroit Tigers. As well is Daniel Norris, who has been sidelined with a strained right oblique since July 5, though the team sent him to Triple-A Toledo following his removal from the DL.
After Zimmermann threw a side bullpen session, the Tigers were comfortable with his recovery enough to reinstate him. The right-hander will start on Thursday in the final game against the White Sox.
Manager Brad Ausmus had been holding off on announcing Thursday’s starter until he knew whether Zimmermann could start, so that answers that.
Norris’ option to Toledo isn’t so much performance related as it’s attributed to Matt Boyd of late. Ausmus said the lefty has done well enough that he’s earned another start, which will come on Friday in Game 1 against the Mets.
In Norris’ and Zimmermann’s absence, Boyd has a 2.21 ERA with seven runs (five earned) allowed in four starts, striking out 23 in that time. He's averaged just 2.7 hits per nine innings and walked a total of four batters in 20 1/3 innings, allowing three home runs.
Norris has dealt with injuries off and on this year — more often than not — and undoubtedly needs time to get back up to speed, while at the time staying stretched out.
Neither Norris or Boyd will be moved to the bullpen for that reason. When healthy, Norris has been a solid starter for Detroit, but keeping him healthy has been a problem. Recently, he was asked to put on some additional weight to help prevent injury. For now, he’ll work toward returning to the Detroit ball club in the meantime.
With Zimmermann and Norris off the disabled list, the only player the Tigers are waiting for is J.D. Martinez. The team expecting him to return within the next few days and certainly before the homestand is out. Tuesday he updated that estimation to the end of the current series, which lands on Thursday, only two days from now.
Also, Mike Pelfrey’s MRI showed no structural damage to the back tightness and was listed as Grade 1, the lowest the team could’ve hoped for. He’ll remain day-to-day and will throw a bullpen session on Friday to check on his progress.
Anibal Sanchez has also been filling in for a shortened rotation and is likely having his final start on Tuesday. He’s expected to return to the bullpen unless Pelfrey’s return is prolonged. So, for now the team rotation goes: Sanchez (Tues.), Michael Fulmer (Wed.), Zimmermann (Thurs.), Boyd (Fri.), Justin Verlander (Sat.), and either Pelfrey or Sanchez (Sun.).
That fifth day is up in the air but for the most part the rotation is back to full strength. Here’s the thing, though. The Tigers could’ve still added Norris to the rotation without losing Boyd. The bullpen already has an extra pitcher and Sanchez is about as sure of a loss as it gets.
Had the team sent right-hander Dustin Molleken back to the minors, they could’ve moved Sanchez to the ‘pen Tuesday night — instead of starting him — and started Norris in his stead. Norris’ last rehab start was on July 28, five days ago, and he would’ve been pitching on normal rest.
In that start for Erie, Norris went 6 2/3 innings and gave up three runs on five hits, walking three and striking out seven on 92 pitches. He wouldn't be giving the Tigers anything spectacular, but it would've been a better option than sticking with Sanchez. Yet, the Tigers continue to beat a dead horse at the expense of the team’s success, and on that note, hopes of the postseason.