No matter how you slice it, Jordan Zimmermann’s 2016 season was ugly. The 30-year-old righthander battled multiple injuries en route to a 9-7 record and 4.87 ERA in 18 starts. His 105 1⁄3 innings were his lowest since he returned from Tommy John surgery way back in 2010. Worse yet, Zimmermann’s fastball velocity declined due to a neck injury he treated all throughout the offseason.
Fortunately, everything is OK so far. Zimmermann made his first start of the spring on Monday in a wild 10-7 win over the Atlanta Braves. Radar guns clocked Zimmermann’s fastball as high as 94 miles per hour, a welcome sight for a pitcher who maxed out at 94.1 mph late last summer. He threw mostly fastballs in his outing, but was pleased with how it felt coming out of his hand.
"Last year I was cutting everything off and I had more run on the ball, which is not what I want or how I've been pitching my whole career," Zimmerman said. "I want the true four-seam rise, and I feel like I had that today."
It’s still early, but if injuries were truly the only thing holding Zimmermann back in 2016, the Tigers could take a major step forward this year.
On the other hand...
Anibal Sanchez was not as sharp on Monday, allowing three runs in his only inning of work. Radar guns again told most of the story.
There didn’t appear to be a lot of life on his pitches. According to a scout’s radar gun, his fastball was 87-92 mph. His slider and change-up, both coming in at 85-87 mph, seemed flat.
Velocity isn’t everything for Sanchez, who averaged 91.8 miles per hour on his fastball last season. He is at his best when mixing pitches and changing speeds. Most importantly, Sanchez needs to locate his fastball, something he has struggled with over the past couple years.
While the scoreline was ugly, it’s still early. Zimmermann threw mostly fastballs on Monday — a common practice for veteran pitchers early on in the spring — so it’s possible that Sanchez was doing something similar.
It’s Nicholas now, OK?
Nothing says you have arrived in the major leagues more than changing your name.
Nick Castellanos has asked the Tigers staff to refer to him as Nicholas on the program and other public written forms.— Chris McCosky (@cmccosky) February 27, 2017
Castellanos (and Matt Boyd!) are just following in the footsteps of past greats like Mike Stanton and B.J. Upton.
For your free time
Baseball Prospectus wants to speed up the game. Sort of. Baseball America’s Ben Badler throws some shade at the MLB international amateur showcase. Byron Buxton is still terrifyingly talented. Jason Kipnis had a cortisone shot in his shoulder. Pedro Alvarez is still a free agent. Yahoo’s Jeff Passan wrote about Clayton Kershaw, so you should read it.