Jordan Zimmermann was a professional during five seasons as a Tiger, talking with reporters after outings good and bad, even when there were more of the latter. But as he looked back on his career in a video call with reporters Tuesday, a couple of hours after announcing his retirement, the emotion of his struggles with Detroit came out.
Asked what he takes away from his Tigers tenure, Zimmermann said, “I wish I would’ve stayed healthy.”
At that point, he was clearly emotional, and he paused for half a minute to gather himself.
“I wish I could have gave more,” he continued. “The body just wasn’t holding up.”
Zimmermann couldn’t go on after that.
The Brewers, Zimmermann’s hometown team, announced the right-hander’s retirement Tuesday morning. The Auburndale, Wis., native made two appearances after joining Milwaukee on a Minor League deal in Spring Training. He was ready to retire this past offseason, he said, before the Brewers presented a big league opportunity.
Zimmermann joined the Tigers as a free agent over Thanksgiving weekend in 2015 after two National League All-Star selections, a no-hitter and 19.5 bWAR over seven seasons with the Nationals. He was named American League Pitcher of the Month for April 2016, his first month as a Tiger, after going 5-0 with a 0.55 ERA over his first five starts.
From there, neck and back issues hindered Zimmermann, forcing nerve block injections for a few years. He never made 30 starts in a season with Detroit, and he topped 140 innings only once. He was a league-average pitcher by ERA+ over 25 starts in 2018, going 7-8 with a 4.52 ERA, sandwiched between two rough years.
Just when Zimmermann seemed to be past his neck issues, he missed time with elbow injuries during his final two years with Detroit. He was limited to two starts and a relief appearance last year. He pitched through more issues this season, and he said he probably would’ve ended up on the injured list had he continued.
“For the team and the guys I’m competing with and grinding with every day, I felt like the right thing to do was not going on the IL and call it a career,” he said.
Zimmermann finished with a 25-41 record and a 5.63 ERA in 99 appearances as a Tiger, but he closed his 13-year Major League career with a 95-91 mark and a 4.07 ERA. For a rural Wisconsin native who went undrafted out of high school and pitched in college at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, he had a very good career.
“A small-town kid who played at a Division III school and made it to the big leagues, that’s tough to do,” he said. “That’s probably the biggest thing [I’m proud of].”
Perez to undergo shoulder surgery
Right-hander Franklin Perez, the Tigers’ No. 15 prospect, will undergo right shoulder surgery, the latest injury setback for the former top prospect.
“He will be out a while,” manager A.J. Hinch said.
Perez, still just 23 years old, has been limited to 27 innings since joining the Tigers’ organization as the headline prospect in the Justin Verlander trade in 2017. He was set to resume his career at High-A West Michigan when he went on the IL with a right shoulder capsule defect.
Dodgers team physician and orthopedic surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who examined Perez’s shoulder last week, will perform the surgery Wednesday in Los Angeles.
Perez was part of big league camp in Spring Training and made two Grapefruit League appearances. His drop in velocity, averaging around 90 mph on his fastball, raised concerns, but the Tigers hoped a chance to stretch out in Minor League camp would help him regain some velo.
“We saw little glimpses of improvement and then a step backwards, and then more improvement and then step backwards,” Hinch said. “And it just became kind of an endless cycle on a day to day basis. The symptoms and getting him checked out by doctors, that all developed as the Minor League Spring Training went underway. But he didn’t look particularly great the entire spring from a health standpoint, and he was working hard.”
Perez joins Alex Faedo and Joey Wentz as pitching prospects on Detroit’s 40-man roster while dealing with rehab from major surgeries. Wentz is expected to resume pitching this summer after undergoing Tommy John surgery last March. Faedo is out for the year following Tommy John surgery last December. Perez will be out of Minor League options next spring.
• Buck Farmer, the longest-tenured Tiger other than Miguel Cabrera, will remain in the organization after being designated for assignment last Saturday. He cleared waivers and has been outrighted to Triple-A Toledo, Detroit announced Tuesday.
• Jeimer Candelario was originally in Tuesday’s lineup at designated hitter but was quickly scratched. The third baseman was dealing with symptoms following his second COVID-19 vaccine shot, Hinch said.