|4:10 PM PT5:10 PM MT6:10 PM CT7:10 PM ET19:10 ET23:10 GMT7:10 4:10 PM MST6:10 PM EST6:40 PM VEN3:10 UAE (+1)6:10 PM CT, September 21, 2017
Comerica Park, Detroit, Michigan Attendance: 25,437
Zimmermann ready to go as Tigers host Twins
DETROIT -- Jordan Zimmermann got rid of the pain in his neck, at least on a temporary basis. He will now try to finish an otherwise unpleasant season on an upbeat note.
The Detroit Tigers right-hander will make his first appearance since Sept. 2 when he faces the Minnesota Twins in the opener of a four-game series on Thursday at Comerica Park.
Zimmermann was sidelined by a recurrence of neck and shoulder pain that short-circuited his first season with the Tigers a year ago. He received a nerve-blocking injection to ease the pain, just as he did early last offseason.
Following two bullpen sessions, Zimmermann is ready to return to the rotation.
"I wanted to get the shots and see how it responded," he said. "I got the shots in November last year and then I had a big layoff, so I didn't really know if it was the layoff that helped or the shot that helped in November. So this is the real test. I got the shot, and everything in my shoulder and neck is gone, so the shot definitely helped."
Zimmermann will face an opponent that is desperately trying to hold onto the second American League wild-card spot. The Twins are reeling, having lost five of their past six games, and their lead over the Los Angeles Angels is just 1 1/2 games. Minnesota was swept in a three-game series by the New York Yankees this week, including an 11-3 thumping on Wednesday.
Zimmermann (8-12, 6.18 ERA) lost four of his last five decisions before he was shelved. He surrendered seven runs in three consecutive August starts, including a 3 1/3-inning outing against the Twins. In his last mound appearance, he allowed five runs on 12 hits in five innings against the Cleveland Indians.
He is not sure how long he can go on Thursday.
"I have no clue what their plans are or how many pitches, but I'm going to go out there until (manager) Brad (Ausmus) comes and gets me," he said. "My goal is to throw a quality start. That's kind of my goal every time out, and that's not going to change."
Zimmermann can't do much to improve his ugly ERA, but he was determined to pitch again this season. The neck issue is a degenerative condition that will have to be monitored the rest of his career.
"That's the plan, just go out there and get a few more innings and see how this thing responds after the shot here," he said. "Then get ready for next season and stick with the program I had, just fix a few small things and hopefully stay healthy all next year."
He will be opposed Thursday by Twins left-hander Adalberto Mejia, who will be making his second start since recovering from a left biceps strain. After a five-week absence, he lasted just three innings against the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday, allowing three runs on five hits.
"I thought Mejia's stuff was good. Some of the selection and location might have been off a bit," manager Paul Molitor told MLB.com afterward. "He had to pay the price for that."
Mejia (4-6, 4.62 ERA) wound up with no-decisions in both of his career starts against Detroit while posting a 5.14 ERA. Both of those outings occurred this year.
A wild-card berth would be a shocking turnaround for a Minnesota team that finished in last place in the AL Central a year ago.
"I'd be happy to elaborate more if it happens," Molitor told MLB.com. "But I think at the moment, I'd say to be able to experience a postseason game or more in this season, the combination it would do for young players and their confidence and the fact that we're coming off (finishing 59-103) last season, it would provide a big boost to us moving forward."
The Twins likely will have to go without slugger Miguel Sano the remainder of the season. He has been slow to recover from a left shin stress reaction.
Updated September 21, 2017