Orioles pitcher Bruce Zimmermann has worked on his health, his mechanics and his confidence in his most recent stint in the minors.
The goal is to take the ball every five days in the starting rotation for the Orioles when he’s activated from the 10-day injured list. He has been on the injured list since June 15th because of left biceps tendinitis.
Zimmerman has battled injuries this year, but he’s fully healthy and ready to finish the season strong.
“I’m feeling great,” Zimmermann said. “Much better, closer to the beginning of the season almost. The time off to rehab my arm really gave me a great opportunity to build some strength in my lower half. Since building back in the rehab process, my arm has been feeling better and better after each start. Less soreness. Overall, I am processing much better through these starts.”
Zimmermann, a 26-year-old native of Woodstock, has made two starts in his injury rehab assignment, one for High-A Aberdeen and one for Triple-A Norfolk. The Orioles haven’t decided if Zimmermann needs another rehab start before his return to the team.
Zimmermann was optioned to Norfolk after a start at Oakland on May 2nd, got one start for the Tides before he was brought back to the Orioles on May 16th.
“To a certain extent, I kind of expected that to happen this year, along with myself and the other rookies,” Zimmermann said. “It was [not] going to be seamless the jump to the big leagues — harder, better competition, obviously. I was expecting to have a stint in Triple-A and things like that. When it came, it came at a good time to give me a breather to come back down and work on some things that might not have been so crisp at the beginning of the year. My outing following that option went really well.”
On May 16th, Zimmermann pitched 5 2/3 innings in relief, allowing one run on two hits against the New York Yankees.
“The last month I was up there before I got hurt, I started to get on a roll with my starts. You just take it in stride,” he said.
Zimmermann is already a fan favorite in Baltimore. He once pitched at Camden Yards in the Brooks Robinson All-Star Game as a senior at Loyola Blakefield in Towson.
After graduating from Loyola, Zimmermann spent his freshman and sophomore years of college at Towson University before transferring to Division II Mount Olive College in North Carolina for his junior and senior years.
As a senior, he went 9-2 with a 3.18 ERA. He also had129 strikeouts, which tied the university’s single-season record set by former major league pitcher Carter Capps.
Zimmermann was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the fifth round of the 2017 draft and was assigned to the Rookie League Danville Braves, where he was 0–1 with a 3.09 ERA in 11 starts.
The Orioles acquired Zimmermann along with catcher Brett Cumberland, infielder JC Encarnacion and right-hander Evan Phillips in the July 2018 trade for Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day.
Zimmermann has not pitched for the Orioles since June 13th. He started the opener of a doubleheader for Triple-A Norfolk on August 5th and threw three scoreless innings, allowing two hits with four walks and five strikeouts.
“The first time, there were some mechanical things we were trying to be more consistent with,” Zimmermann said. “Throwing my slider back-door to righties became an absolutely massive weapon in my arsenal that I was able to use very consistently. That was one of the aspects to make the second go-round for me to have some solid outings … [and] throwing the changeup to both sides of the plate.
“I’ve always been a guy to locate my fastball in, but I worked on being able to do it on command and with confidence. It was so much adding a whole lot of new things. Working on stuff up there is different from working on things in the minors.”
Zimmermann gained knowledge with each promotion to the Orioles, especially that there is no let-up.
“You just don’t get a break,” Zimmermann said. “That was probably the biggest adjustment this year, and I still have to get used to it. The stress level is higher throughout the entire start. You don’t get those breaks. The seven, eight and nine guys in the big leagues can still take you deep and do some damage on you. It’s really doing a good job on your conditioning and staying mentally locked in without frying yourself.”
Zimmermann said he learns more from adversity than success. He had a three-game losing streak with the Orioles from April 15-21, allowing nine runs and 21 hits with nine strikeouts and six walks.
He made adjustments and pitched better in his last four starts with the Orioles, going 2-1 with a 3.34 ERA. Zimmermann struck out 23 batters and allowed eight walks. Overall, he is 4-4 with a 4.83 ERA in 12 appearances, 11 starts.
“When I started piecing together the quality starts, the confidence grows with each inning,” Zimmermann said. “Limit the walks, maximize the number of innings. Overall, my confidence is much higher than at the beginning of the season.”
The goal is to be a pitcher manager Brandon Hyde can trust every five days.
“Ideally, I don’t like to focus on stats, but it’s a game, it’s a business,” Zimmermann said. “Those things matter. I would love to finish the season strong and pull that ERA below a 4.50, closer to a 4. I would love to get a few more quality starts, more routinely. Hyde loves guys that don’t allow a lot of walks, they pound the zone. I want to prove that I can be a successful starter in the American League East. I can be a piece that is here to stay at least for the rebuild.”
Rutschman moves up: Catcher Adley Rutschman, who is now considered the top prospect in minor league baseball, is being promoted from Double-A Bowie to Triple-A Norfolk. Rutschman’s promotion was first reported by MASNsports.com on Sunday and confirmed by industry sources.
The 23-year-old catcher, who was the overall top pick in the 2019 draft by the Orioles, was recently named baseball’s top prospect by MLBPipeline.
Rutschman is batting .271 with 18 home runs and 55 RBIs in 80 games with Bowie.
The Baysox were no-hit by Somerset, 7-0, on Sunday. Rutschman struck out twice in three at-bats.
Rutschman’s first scheduled game with Norfolk is on Tuesday at Harbor Park against Memphis.
Carmona gets hot: Delmarva infielder Jean Carmona has hit five homers this season — all since July 17th, matching his career total coming into the year. In last week’s series against the Fredericksburg Nationals, Carmona went 8-for-27 (.296) with a homer and three RBIs, plus two doubles for an .826 OPS.
Sedlock keeps rolling: Bowie right-hander Cody Sedlock was solid again and allowed one run on four hits in 5 2/3rd innings in a 3-1 victory over Somerset on Saturday. Sedlock is 5-2 with a 4.01 ERA and a save in 16 appearances, including 11 starts. Sedlock was selected by the Orioles in the first round (No. 27 overall) of the 2016 Major League Baseball draft. He appeared to be on a fast track to the majors as the team’s No. 2 prospect but injuries and struggles hampered his progress.