When I was in Sarasota earlier this week, lefty Bruce Zimmermann talked about his spring performance. He has thrown more innings in spring games, 12, than any other O’s pitcher and has an ERA of 3.75, allowing 11 hits and five runs with three walks and eight strikeouts.
The young man from Baltimore liked how he has been mixing pitches and attacking hitters.
“I like how efficient I have been most of this spring. That is a big thing to show,” said Zimmermann, 28. “Limit walks, get guys out early. The way you get burned as a starting pitcher is going deep (in counts) in certain innings and pitch count racks up, and right now that is a positive for me to take away.”
I asked Zimmermann if he evaluates his spring mostly off the stats and box scores, or does he look at other aspects in grading his own performance?
“That is a tough question," he replied. "Because you don’t want to have an outing where the box score looks horrendous and think, ‘I want to spin this in a positive light.’ As far as box scores go, you take care of what you are wanting to show in the spring, what you work on in the offseason, and how you are attacking hitters is really important. It is still spring and you are still getting tuned up. But you still want positive outings while you tune things up in the spring.
“But I am trying to win a job, so box scores matter. It’s a very competitive spring. A lot of people say wins and losses don’t matter as much for a starter, but many starters will tell you they love wins. And wins mean a whole lot. It’s not just ERA. Wins matter.”
Zimmermann is putting up some solid numbers this spring, but so are plenty of other pitchers who are battling for the starting rotation spots. Kyle Bradish and Kyle Gibson have 2.00 spring ERAs while Cole Irvin is at 2.89 and Dean Kremer is at 3.00. Zimmermann allowed one run in four innings Tuesday in Bradenton versus the Pirates in his most recent outing.
“It’s exciting," he said. "I love competition, and it only works out better for the team in the end to put the best starting five possible out there. Just always focusing on my next outing and trying to put my best foot forward.”
Zimmermann went 2-5 with a 5.99 ERA for the 2022 Orioles. He spent a lot of the second half in Triple-A trying to work his way back to Baltimore, where he got off to such a good start. His ERA was 2.72 in mid-May last season. He knows he could be sent to the farm as Triple-A depth for the rotation. But he’s aiming to be in the big leagues from the start once again.
“April. I want (to be on the roster in) April," he said. "I’ve been on the past two Opening Day rosters. Then some injuries and some consistency things, but I want to be on that Opening Day roster. I think it means a lot to start the year with your guys, and hopefully finish the year with them.”
WBC update: Team USA resumes play in the World Baseball Classic tonight, playing Venezuela in the quarterfinals at 7 p.m. It’s one and done now, with tonight’s winner advancing to the semi-finals Sunday against Cuba and the losing team going home. Should Team USA win both tonight and Sunday, it would play Tuesday for the WBC championship.
At the beginning of the quarterfinals, Japan was made the favorite to win the championship at +165, with Team USA next at +190 and Venezuela as third favorite at +450.
The WBC set an attendance record for the first round, drawing 1,010,999 fans, the best attended round in the history of the tournament and a 98 percent increase from the previous mark of 510,056 in 2017. The average attendance of 25,275 also set a record for the first round, eclipsing the 2017 average of 20,402 by 24 percent.
Pool D in Miami at loanDepot park set the record for the most attended World Baseball Classic round ever in the United States, drawing 295,850, an increase of 81 percent. Average attendance in Miami registered 29,585, which was an increase of eight percent from the 2017 average of 27,313.
Mexico’s victory over Team USA on March 12 at Chase Field drew 47,534, which is a World Baseball Classic attendance record for any first-round game.
In Japan, the March 10 Japan vs. Korea game on TBS registered a 44.4 rating, making it the most-watched game in the history of the WBC in any country. The game outrated all sports competition during the Tokyo Olympics. Japan’s four first-round games averaged a 42.3 rating in the country.
The O’s Cedric Mullins is 1-for-5 in the event with a triple, two runs and an RBI. For Venezuela, Anthony Santander is batting .462 (6-for-13) in four games with a double, a triple, two homers, five RBIs and an OPS of 1.687.
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