DETROIT - Brad Ausmus didn’t have any expectations.
Expectations, he explained before Saturday night’s game against the Baltimore Orioles, meant putting numbers on Jordan Zimmermann’s return to the mound.
Say, pitching six innings. Allowing two runs. Maybe striking out a handful of batters.
“I don’t really have expectations, so I guess that’s tempered,” he said. “I just want to see him pitch.”
Ausmus wanted to see the ball coming out of Zimmerman’s hands and how his neck felt. Zimmermann wouldn’t go over 100 pitches. The Detroit Tigers were hoping he could pitch somewhere in the neighborhood of five or six innings. They were hoping he could leave with the lead.
None of those hopes were realized. But they certainly couldn’t expect the kind of shellacking Zimmermann took in his first start after a month on the disabled list, which will open the team to more questions about whether or not Zimmermann was healthy enough to return for a second time.
Zimmermann allowed three home runs in an inning-plus of work, putting the Tigers in a deep hole early as they were pounded by the Orioles, 11-3, at Comerica Park.
Zimmermann allowed six runs on four hits, walking three and striking out none.
On the first pitch of the game, Adam Jones hit a solo home run.
On Zimmermann’s 12th pitch, Chris Davis hit a two-run home run.
On his 33rd pitch, Matt Wieters hit a two-run home run.
Zimmermann threw 42 pitches, none of which looked particularly sharp, or crisp. It was the shortest start of his eight-year big league career.
After struggling in his final minor league injury rehabilitation start with Triple-A Toledo on Monday – he allowed seven runs on six hits in 4 2/3 innings – Zimmermann told reporters he was ready. Ausmus was asked before the game why the team decided to start him against a high-powered Orioles offense, in an important series, instead of waiting until the lowly Minnesota Twins came to town next week.
“We didn’t want to hold him out for eight days so there really was not any deliberation,” Ausmus said. “It was just whether to go five days or six.”
And five days after his third start with the Mud Hens, Zimmermann threw worse than he did in his previous start, on Aug. 4, when he allowed six runs on six hits in 1 2/3 innings after rushing himself back to the mound.
Zimmermann said last month he “tried to be a superhero and it backfired,” and last week, that his second minor league injury rehab assignment was going much better. The results did not show.
Zimmermann signed a five-year, $110 million deal in the off-season.
The Tigers didn’t do much against righty Ubaldo Jimenez, who entered the game with a 6.19 ERA this season and 5.68 ERA in 20 career starts against them.
Jimenez pitched seven innings, allowing four runs on two hits.
Zimmermann left the game in the second inning, down 6-1. The Orioles tacked on runs in each of the third and fourth innings and then Wieters hit his second home run of the game, a three-run shot, off Buck Farmer in the sixth inning.
With the loss, the Tigers fell out of a tie with the Orioles for the second American League wild-card spot and lost the season series. If the two teams finish with the same record and a tie for a wild-card berth, the game will be held in Baltimore.