Zimmermann pushing for roster spot with family support

SARASOTA, Fla. - Bruce Zimmermann’s parents wanted to make certain that they could be heard above the crowd noise. Voices carry further in a spring training setting. And when he’s retiring the Braves in succession and walking back to the home dugout.
The Baltimore native had his own cheering section on Saturday, which included his father’s best friend and wife. They’d erupt in pockets after another out was recorded and another inning was completed.
Zimmermann faced the minimum number of Braves batters in three innings. Yólmer Sanchez led off the top of the fourth inning with a single, Joe Dunand grounded into a double play, and Zimmerman disposed of the next seven batters.
Only two fly ball outs in three innings, and three strikeouts. The noise reached him.
“She said I never usually hear her,” he said, “so she wanted to make sure.”
Zimmermann needed this kind of outing while in a heated camp competition, with almost a dozen starters vying for five spots.
“That’s exactly what I wanted to do,” he said. “Coming off the last outing, which, tough first inning but good second inning, so I just wanted to build off that second inning from last time and go out there and just be efficient and pound the zone and kind of just establish all my pitches early and keep working on them. I felt like I did a good job of that throughout all the innings.”
Zimmermann started against the Rays on Feb. 27 in Sarasota. Wander Franco hit a two-run homer in the first and allowed three hits in the inning but retired the side in order in the second.
The stuff was improving and it got better on Saturday.
“The results kind of speak for that a little bit, too,” he said. “I just felt like my delivery was a lot more consistent, which translates down the line to the pitches being a lot more consistent over the board. I just felt a little more comfortable on the mound, a little more relaxed and ready to go after the guys.”
Manager Brandon Hyde noted the increase in Zimmermann’s velocity, one of the more pleasing developments along with the outs, of course.
“I think that’s just a little bit getting settled into the spring training routine, as well as building up,” Zimmermann said. “That’s what I was hoping to see coming out of my offseason into spring. And it’s probably a little adrenaline, too, fighting for a job every time, but that was something I did want to see, so I was happy to see that tick up a little bit last outing and hopefully that continues and maybe ticks up a little bit more by the end of March.”
That’s when Zimmermann should know the Orioles’ plans for him. Whether he’s back in the rotation, where he began 2022 as the No. 4 starter before being optioned in June, used as a long reliever or optioned to Triple-A Norfolk.
Zimmermann is trying to jump out of the third tier of starting candidates that rotation prognosticators put him in. Kyle Gibson and Cole Irvin are the locks, with rookie Grayson Rodriguez all but certain. Kyle Bradish and Dean Kremer are commonly viewed as the most likely to make it but Tyler Wells can’t be discounted after a superb first half.
That’s overflow in a five-man rotation.
Austin Voth is out of minor league options and accompanying the Orioles to Boston in some capacity. Zimmermann, Spenser Watkins, Mike Baumann and Drew Rom round out the third tier, and they’re all certainly capable of leapfrogging.
This is just the perception. It isn’t concrete.
DL Hall eased some of the complications. He won’t be stretched out to start by March 30 and apparently is headed to the bullpen or Triple-A.
Zimmermann will keep trying to force the issue and make the Orioles find room for him. He’ll be scheduled for three innings again, which was the plan Saturday, when his efficiency led to 15 more pitches thrown in the bullpen before heading indoors.
“We’ll just keep building up after that,” he said. “We’re continuing to build that volume on a scheduled basis like most starters do.”
Give the family and friends something else to yell about.
As for yesterday’s game at Tropicana Field, the Orioles rallied for a 5-2 win over the Rays and my laptop died in the eighth inning while they scored twice to pad the lead. (I’m using a loaner)
Cedric Mullins double on the first pitch thrown to him, grounded out to end a 12-pitch at-bat, flied out on one pitch in his last at-bat – Randy Arozarena ran down the ball near the left field line – and left the club to join Team USA in Phoenix for the World Baseball Classic.
I lost my entire story, but trust me, he’s excited to go and said it won’t really hit him until his flight lands and he drops off his bags.
Ryan Mountcastle had a two-run triple in the first, to go with his two career triples in the regular season. Usually not his thing.
The Orioles didn’t collect another hit until Nomar Mazara’s tie-breaking, run-scoring single in the seventh. Lewin Díaz kept raking with an RBI single in the eighth. Heston Kjerstad singled before Díaz batted, making him 7-for-11 this spring.
Hyde said he likes Díaz’s “handsy swing” and told the media that he’s going to give the first baseman “opportunities because it’s really interesting, and the way he can play defense is extraordinary.”
Kyle Bradish threw 43 pitches in three innings, 26 for strikes, and allowed one run and two hits with a walk and two strikeouts in three innings. Arozarena hit another home run against the Orioles because apparently it’s the law. Bradish threw first-pitch strikes to 10 of 11 batters, including the last eight.
Bradish is going to miss teammate, friend and roommate Dean Kremer, who’s joining Israel in the WBC.
“It will be weird, at the field and at home,” Bradish said. “It will be a little more quiet.”
Also weird is how I couldn’t file after the pregame notes and might not be able to later today unless I can bum another laptop until a new one arrives. But today’s game against the Phillies is on MASN, so you can see what happens for yourself – live or on the replay. 

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