More than 25 years separate the first MLB hits for Detroit Tigers outfielder Daz Cameron and his father, Mike, but the situations — both involving the Tigers — are eerily similar.
Mike got his on Aug. 30, 1995, the third game of his career. He was playing for the Chicago White Sox and facing the Tigers in a night game at what was then known as new Comiskey Park.
Daz got his on Sept. 11, 2020, the fourth game of his career. He was playing for the Tigers and facing the White Sox in a night game at Guaranteed Rate Field, which was known as new Comiskey Park until 2003.
“For him to have his first hit and for me to get my first hit here is kind of surreal,” Cameron said Friday. “It’s something I’ll remember forever.”
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Cameron’s father finished his 17-year, eight-team career in 2011 with 1,700 hits. The Tigers hope the younger version will be able to approach that number, though they wouldn’t mind if it was with just one organization.
The franchise is slowly coming out of a rebuild, and Cameron — acquired from the Houston Astros in the 2017 Justin Verlander trade that launched that rebuild — is a key part of the process, along with, among others, infielder Isaac Paredes and pitchers Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal. But to see further improvement and prepare for the next step, it was important to get that first knock out of the way.
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“That was a big moment,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “This kid can play. He’s standing up there and handling those pitchers up there. He looks good at the plate, can play some defense. He’s already proved that before, but he’s doing at the major-league level. This is fun.”
Mike drove in one run in 1995 with a double to left field to pull within one run of the Tigers; Daz plated two runs in 2020 and gave the Tigers a 3-0 lead, chasing White Sox starter Lucas Giolito with his single to right field in the sixth inning.
“It’s something you literally can’t forget,” Cameron said, “and I’ll cherish it for a long time.”
The 23-year-old, the organization’s No. 7 prospect, was called up Wednesday from the alternate training site in Toledo to replace Christin Stewart, who was struggling for the second year in a row with a .171 batting average.
While Cameron only has one hit in 13 at-bats, he’s confident he can last a while in the majors — just like his father.
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“I need to make sure that I come to the ballpark every day and have a routine,” Cameron said. “If I continue to do the right things working on that, everything else will take care of itself.”
Zimmermann to bullpen
Unless a spot starter is needed or an injury occurs, the days of right-hander Jordan Zimmermann taking the mound in the first inning for the Tigers are over.
Gardenhire said Saturday the plan is to use him out of the bullpen for the remainder of the 2020 season. Zimmermann will be a free agent this offseason. He started Game 2 of Thursday’s doubleheader with the St. Louis Cardinals and threw three innings with one run (unearned) allowed.
“We’ll definitely give him his time, two or probably three days in between, and we’ll see where he’s at,” Gardenhire said. “And how we use him out of the bullpen will be dictated by that — how he’s feeling. … We’re going to be careful with him, but we’ll get him in ballgames.”
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Zimmermann has started all but one of 275 appearances across his 12-year career. To make sure he’s effective in the new role, Gardenhire will give him “all the time he needs” to prepare to come out of the bullpen.
Zimmermann could be used in a piggyback role following a starter with a limited pitch count, much like how left-hander Daniel Norris enters after right-hander Michael Fulmer is done, though Gardenhire didn’t commit to it Saturday.
That role would allow for plenty of preparation.
“We don’t want him to get up real quick and throw a few pitches like some of the guys can do,” Gardenhire said. “We’ll preset it when we’re going to put him in a ballgame.”
Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Detroit Tigers content.