By: Holly Horning
I am a “cautiously optimistic” person in general but especially so when it comes to baseball. I refuse to make predictions about the standings and always hope for the best. I stay for the very last out of a game no matter how far behind my team is.
But that’s not to say that I don’t have gut feelings about certain match-ups based upon the habits and patterns seen.
Which is why I sat down in trepidation to watch Jordan Zimmermann pitch on Saturday. And it left me with a slew of questions which appear not to be easily answered. Questions like:
If Zimm didn’t have good outings in AAA, what led the team to believe he would be effective against major league hitting?
In his last 2 appearances, JZ told Ausmus both times that he felt good to go. After the first debacle, in which Zimm confessed that he really wasn’t 100%, why would Brad trust his word again?
If starting pitching was doing so well with a rotation of JV, Boyd, Norris, Fulmer and even Sanchez, why would they want to mess with the formula this late in the season?
Why do we now have 2 instances with Zimmermann warming up pre-game, viewed by the manager, pitching coach, trainer and 2 catchers and deemed ready to pitch even though everyone who watched him is on the record with their first-hand concerns?
How can a team be so far off the mark about a pitcher’s readiness that he’s unable to even pitch a single inning without incurring a substantial number of earned runs?
How could management take such a big risk in one of the most crucial games of the year, esp. after his last start?
How many decision-makers were involved in green-lighting Zimm’s return?
And were most of these people all in agreement or were they overruled by someone else?
Speaking of being in agreement, how many would logically believe there would be a good outcome based upon Zimm’s performance in AAA where he underwhelmed and was hit hard on occasion? But despite the inability for us to rationalize this decision, it may actually be based upon an expansive series of factors including:
1. The AAA system had concluded for the year and offered no more chances for rehab.
2. Starting pitching candidates had been exhausted with no other viable starters available and Fulmer nearing his innings limits.
3. A huge contract generally dictating that money is often an overriding factor in determining how quickly a player is returned to the lineup.
4. A desperate last-ditch attempt to regain as many injured players as possible in order to make a push for the playoffs.
But for me, where the Zimmermann train went off the track was early in the summer with his first injury. An injury that was officially presented as being minor, yet somehow turned into a 3-month odyssey. A single injury that ended up impacting other areas of his body as medical experts have testified.
An injury that after a whopping 2 months of no improvement resulted in JZ seeking his own independent medical help. A return to someone here in DC who helped keep him injury-free for over 6 years. And while Zimm is nowhere near back to normal, he did state that he was feeling his best after this treatment than he did all summer.
I won’t make any assumptions or statements about medical treatment. But I can’t help but believe that an initial injury officially deemed minor and short-term by the team – and that turned into multiple related injuries keeping him out for 3 months – could have been resolved better and more quickly.
If it had, we wouldn’t be here discussing a disappointing weekend that pushed the Tigers further away from playoff contention.