It did seem a bit strange when the Orioles released their initial 60-man player pool that Baltimorean Bruce Zimmermann was not on the list. The 25-year-old lefty, acquired in a trade on July 31, 2018, had been with the club and was still on the roster when the first spring training was shut down.
He had pitched well in Florida and was set to start on March 12 in Fort Myers against the Twins, but that was the day of the Major League Baseball shutdown.
Zimmermann recently revealed via his Twitter account that he tested positive for COVID-19. He only experienced mild symptoms and only for a few days. On Aug. 3, he was added to the group of players at the Bowie alternate site.
"Lately, I've been feeling 100 percent," Zimmermann said today during a Zoom interview with O's reporters. "Throughout this whole process, even though I tested positive, I was pretty much asymptomatic. I had very few symptoms - in fact, the only one I had was I was congested for a few days the first week of it. I was able to work out and throw on my own following social distance protocols. I feel great and practice has been going great. Been throwing off the mound. Pretty happy with how I feel moving forward."
Zimmermann was able to resume activities and his throwing just a few days after his positive result.
"I got quickly back to throwing on my own and my trusty net at the local high school by myself," he said. "I was doing my long toss program and staying on my five-day schedule. Was staying in contact with Chris Holt (O's director of pitching) and the other pitching coaches down here in Bowie. Sending them video from my self bullpens.
"Through quarantine, I was able to stay on my five-day schedule, which was the big thing. All on my own until I tested negative. My last outing was supposed to be four innings, but it got rained out. As far as being built up, I will be four innings and 60 pitches on Tuesday. On my own during quarantine, I was up to three innings and 50 pitches. Thankfully, I don't think I really lost too much compared to the guys in camp and it's been a seamless re-entry with no physical issues."
Zimmermann is a 2013 Loyola High School graduate and he pitched for two seasons at Towson University. The Atlanta Braves selected him in round five of the 2017 draft. The next year, he was traded to his hometown team in the deal that sent pitchers Kevin Gausman and Darren O'Day to the Braves.
Zimmermann had a very solid 2019 and put himself firmly on the O's radar. Not only did he take to the new technology and analytics on the farm, he thrived with it and produced a year in which he went 7-6 with a 3.21 ERA between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk. In 18 games and 101 2/3 innings with Bowie, he was 5-3 with a 2.58 ERA and a .227 average against. In 38 2/3 innings with Norfolk, he pitched to a 4.89 ERA.
He said he probably would not have even thought to get a test on his own. He never had a fever, lost his sense of taste or smell, or had other common COVID symptoms.
"Thankfully, I did find out through the Orioles' intake testing. Currently, I do live with my parents and my father would probably be considered high-risk. So that was a blessing in disguise. I was able to quarantine immediately away from my parents for the most part," he said.
His bout with coronavirus was short and fortunately didn't impact his health very much. But it provides one a greater appreciation of family, baseball and things we do every day.
"I guess the biggest lesson is probably to not take anything that you do every day for granted," said Zimmermann. "Baseball has been a part of my life for 20 years or so. The most important thing that people are thinking about is their health and wellness and keeping their family safe. It was definitely an interesting time.
"I think some of the things I took away from it was my sister came home from New York city where she lives for about a month. So it was actually really nice to have her around and connect with her again. I can't tell you the amount of honey to-do list jobs I helped my dad with around our yard and house. I got really back into reading with so much free time, because I didn't want to be on my phone and Netflix all the time. Went back to some personal development type things. So there were a lot of positives that came out of it."
And he got to experience baseball in a way that reminded him of his youth.
"I had some teammates that were in the area, so I was able to practice," he said. "We even set up some small, like live BPs with under six people. And that was honestly nice to just play baseball in a way that wasn't, you know, so professional, I guess you could say, in a way. It was kind of like back to sandlot-style baseball. So the love of the game was really apparent with the guys.
"All in all, I was trying to see the positive side of things. Because it was so easy to look around you and see the negative spin on things. I was waking up and trying to find that one way to get better that day and be grateful for what was in front of us."