Bruce Zimmermann needed the break.
The left-hander was optioned on May 3 so that the Orioles could limit his innings.
Now, Zimmermann is ready to rejoin the rotation after holding down the Yankees in a stellar relief performance.
“It gave me time to kind of step back and really identify some things that I wanted to focus on to do better here, but obviously work on down there,” Zimmermann said. “I think it was great to just get down there and work on those things. Also knowing I was hopefully coming back up to help the team, just getting those innings in down there, some side work down there, specifically targeting some things, was definitely a benefit.”
Zimmermann has not started since May 2 when he gave up four runs and seven hits in 4.2 innings against the Oakland Athletics. He was optioned to alternate site at Bowie, Md., the following day and made a start for Triple-A Norfolk May 8.
However, he understood the reasoning behind the move. The team is going to keep a close eye on the 26-year-old pitcher, and this season is a marathon not a sprint like last year because of COVID-19.
Zimmermann was eventually recalled May 16 but not to make a start. The Orioles were going to use a bullpen game to salvage something against the Yankees, who had won the previous two games.
Adam Plutko was pulled after the first inning after he gave up four runs in his first start this season after 15 relief appearances. Plutko’s ERA rose from 1.27 to 2.82 in the short performance.
Zimmermann entered and held down the Yankees’ powerful lineup while the Orioles chipped away at the deficit and emerged with a 10-6 victory.
Zimmermann allowed one run and two hits in 5.2 innings with six strikeouts and one walk.
His velocity was up and command was exceptional.
“It was kind of established beforehand that the idea was to kind of get through the top of the lineup once so I’d hopefully only have to face them twice,” Zimmermann said. “It didn’t really change my mindset. I was coming in and I was prepared to kind of go the starter amount of innings and just get back to bearing down on the zone. Definitely don’t have an issue with that. It was kind of nice to come in and just go at them right away. An interesting approach and I’m all for it if we have to do it again.”
Overall, Zimmermann is 2-3 with a 4.79 ERA in seven appearances, including six starts (35.2 innings). He could get the start against the Washington Nationals May 21 when he is on normal five days rest or be slotted later in the series.
Orioles manager Brandon Hyde hopes Zimmermann can build off his last outing against the Yankees.
“I saw 94 there his last couple innings,” Hyde said. “I thought the velo ticked up a little bit from his previous few starts with us. Shows how maybe a little bit of a rest did some good there. He stayed strong throughout that outing with a really good outing. I liked the way he threw in to all their right-handers, kept them honest and had good off-speed stuff. So just a great five and two-thirds from him. Really pitched well.”
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles