Jordan Zimmermann looked like a $110 million pitcher in his last start. The Detroit Tigers hope the oft-injured Zimmermann can produce like that on a regular basis.
Zimmermann, who will start for the Tigers against the Texas Rangers on Friday in Detroit, has been a huge disappointment since signing a five-year, $110 million free-agent contract in November 2015. His first two seasons with the club were marred by injuries and ineffectiveness.
He took another trip to the disabled list in May because of a shoulder impingement. He has made three starts since his return and was sharp at Toronto on Sunday, holding the Blue Jays to one run on five hits in seven innings. He didn’t issue a walk while striking out six.
His curveball and slider neutralized Toronto’s lineup as the Tigers ended an 11-game losing streak.
“My off-speed stuff was really good (Sunday),” Zimmermann said afterward. “I think the slider’s coming back.”
If Zimmermann (3-0, 3.91 ERA) can string together some quality outings, he could help the Tigers on two fronts. He could provide stability to a rotation that hasn’t gone deep into games often enough. He could also enhance his trade value, which would provide financial relief to a rebuilding franchise.
He lost his only career start against the Rangers despite holding them to three runs in eight innings in 2016.
Detroit’s roster has been in a state of flux since losing first baseman Miguel Cabrera to a season-ending biceps injury last month. Center fielder Leonys Martin and closer Shane Greene are on the disabled list, and Opening Day second baseman Dixon Machado has been designated for assignment.
Niko Goodrum, who has taken over second base, hit a solo homer Thursday but Texas took the opener of the series 7-5. The Tigers have lost 14 of their last 16 games.
Zimmermann, 32, is 13 years younger than his mound opponent in the second game of the four-game series. Bartolo Colon (5-5, 4.76) will make his 16th start this season for Texas.
Colon lasted just long enough to collect the victory in his last appearance, when he gave up three runs in five innings to the Chicago White Sox on Saturday.
With another victory Friday, he will surpass Dennis Martinez for the most wins by a Latin American pitcher. They are tied at 245.
“Tying Dennis Martinez, it’s such an accomplishment,” Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre told MLB.com after Colon’s last outing. “It takes him a long time, 45 years, but it’s nice that he was able to get that, and hopefully he can break it in his next start.”
Colon is 9-10 with a 5.20 ERA in 29 career appearances (28 starts) against Detroit.
Texas designated hitter Shin-Soo Choo did not play in the series opener, so his on-base streak remains at 44 games. He is dealing with tightness in his right quadriceps.
“I don’t want to push it,” Choo told the Dallas Morning News. “Do this until the All-Star break, and the rest will help.”
Joey Gallo and Ronald Guzman picked up the slack Thursday, delivering two-run homers as the Rangers built a seven-run lead and held off Detroit’s late surge.