Hyde hoping Zimmermann rediscovers changeup vs. Royals

KANSAS CITY - For the first month of the season, Bruce Zimmermann was unstoppable, thanks to an unstoppable new changeup. 

Zimmermann’s ERA has gone from 2.72 on May 14 to 4.87 coming into Friday’s start. The last two starts have been particularly unkind, as the lefty has surrendered 11 combined earned runs over his last 9.2 innings. 

The changeup that fooled hitters for the first several starts isn’t nearly as effective. 

What changed?

“I’m not really sure,” manager Brandon Hyde said to the media gathered in the dugout at Kauffman Stadium. “To me, early in the year he was getting a lot of swing-and-miss on the changeup. In the dugout it has looked a little different his last few outings. Just not having the same kind of depth and swing-and-miss that he was getting on it with right-handed hitters. 

“Hopefully he can find it back and have it tonight.”

Zimmermann worked with director of pitching and pitching coach Chris Holt between starts to try to rediscover the pitch. 

“They’re trying to sharpen up his slider as well, and trying to get the depth back in his changeup,” Hyde said.

The Orioles are still looking for a starter to steady the rotation in the month of June. Last night was the eighth consecutive game in which the O’s starter did not deliver a quality start. 

Zimmermann, whose last win came on May 8, could use one.

“It was really good early in the year, and like this long season, it kinda goes through waves, and right now we gotta get our starters a little deeper and keep us in the game,” Hyde said.

While the Orioles look for more consistent starting pitching, their injured ace is back with the team in Kansas City. John Means, native of Olathe, Kan., has joined the team in Kansas City, seeming upbeat and lively, even warming up before Friday’s game with the other pitchers.

“Good to see him yesterday,” said Hyde. “He said everything’s going really well and it feels like he’s right on or ahead of schedule, and he’s encouraged by how he’s feeling.

“We miss him in our rotation. We don’t have a ton of experience in our rotation outside of (Jordan) Lyles, so it’s good for the young guys to be around him.”

The offense was not the issue in Thursday’s 7-5 loss to the Royals, and it started with Cedric Mullins serving in the table-setting role. Mullins collected two doubles at the top of the O’s lineup, providing RBI opportunities for Trey Mancini, Austin Hays and Ryan Mountcastle.

“Good to see him go left-on-left down the left field line last night and then turn around a slider into the right field corner,” Hyde said of the two doubles. “We’re a different team when Ced’s on base, and I’m starting to see his at-bats per game have gotten a little bit better.”

Mullins bats leadoff tonight against the Royals, with first pitch coming at 8:10 p.m. ET.

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