Jordan Zimmermann Sees Up-For-Grabs AL Central: "We Can Surprise Some People"

It would certainly help if the veteran stays healthy.

Jamie and Stoney
March 01, 2019 - 11:55 am

© Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press

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The Tigers hung around in the AL Central for longer than anyone expected last season. Part of this was due to a division that finished with (by far) the fewest wins in baseball, and maybe that's the point. 

The AL Central doesn't look much different this season, which gives an underdog team like the Tigers some hope. Count Jordan Zimmermann among the optimistic. 

"The Twins made a few moves, but other than that in the Central there really hasn't been a lot of moves. So we can surprise some people," Zimmermann told the Jamie and Stoney Show on 97.1 The Ticket. 

The Indians, winners of the division three years running, remain the heavy favorite. But Cleveland had a pretty quiet offseason. The club's biggest move was replacing first baseman Edwin Encarnacion with Carlos Santana in a trade with the Phillies. Of course, most of the Indians' key pieces are already in place.

The Twins, looking to rebound after a disappointing 2018, were indeed the big spenders. (Imagine that.) The typically-frugal club dropped more than $40 million dollars on the trio of Nelson Cruz, Marwin Gonzalez and Jonathan Schoop. 

Meanwhile, the White Sox swung and missed on Manny Machado, and the Royals mostly stood pat. As for the Tigers, it was another offseason of bargain hunting, with Al Avila signing a handful of veterans to one-year deals. His best acquisition looks like second baseman Josh Harrison. 

It was a move that sent a positive message in the Tigers clubhouse. 

"Honestly I didn't even know he was on the market. I remember facing him multiple times in Pittsburgh, and as a pitcher he's not a fun at-bat," Zimmermann said. "He's scrappy, he makes you battle, and I'm glad he's on our side. Plays great defense, I'm just happy we got him.

"It means that we're not going to be a pushover and just run a team out there. We're going to try to win, and win as many ballgames as we can." 

The Tigers, who were within a game of .500 midway through last June, tumbled in the second half and finished with 98 losses for the second year in a row. It was a learning season for a young team, and Zimmermann expects those lessons to pay off 2019. 

"We're really young and athletic, a lot of energy. Just having all these guys up here last year and getting a taste of what big-league baseball is all about is going to go a long ways with them," he said. "I feel like a lot of these guys can take the next step just from being up here the month or two they were last year.

"They're all chomping at the bit to get the season going. It's going to be exciting." 

As for Zimmermann himself, the veteran is fully healthy after undergoing surprise core surgery at the end of last season. With a couple adjustments -- including a new change-up -- and a clean bill of health, Zimmermann is hopeful he can be the pitcher he was in the first half of 2018 when he went 4-1 with a 3.71 ERA. 

The Tigers, desperate to extract some value from a contract that has two years and $50 million remaining, would certainly take it. 

"I'm feeling good," he said. "It's probably the first spring in a couple springs where I actually felt 100 percent healthy when I got down here (to spring training). I had that surgery at the end of the season, fully recovered from that, and arm and neck and everything else that has been bothering me, no issues right now.

"So knock on wood that that continues and finish out the spring strong."