Zimmermann named No. 3 starter (and other notes)

Baltimore native Bruce Zimmermann has done more than just make the Orioles roster as they prepare to break camp.

He’s emerged as the No. 3 starter.

Manager Brandon Hyde announced today that Zimmermann, a graduate of Loyola Blakefield, will close out the series against the Red Sox at Fenway Park. John Means and Matt Harvey are slotted ahead of him.

Zimmermann has allowed only one hit in nine scoreless innings this spring while coming out of the bullpen. He’s walked three batters, struck out 10 and forced his way into the rotation.

Zimmermann-Delivers-Debut-Orange-Sidebar.jpg“He’s pitched outstanding in camp,” Hyde said today on his Zoom call. “Really feel like he’s had a really good spring training. He’s had some good starts here, he’s pitched outstanding on the back field that you guys haven’t seen, in a B game and some other things that he’s done.

“I really like his stuff. I think this guy’s a four-pitch guy, he’s pounded the strike zone all spring, his velocity’s ticked up, his breaking balls have been sharper, and he’s healthy and ready to go. So he’s earned it with how he’s pitched this spring and looking forward to watching him pitch.”

Zimmermann made his major league debut by starting Game 2 of a Sept. 17 doubleheader against the Rays. He pitched in relief Sept. 23 at Fenway Park and held the Red Sox to one run and two hits over four innings.

The fourth and fifth starters will be announced later, with Dean Kremer and Jorge López the likely choices. Hyde confirmed plans for a five-man rotation.

Means will start the season’s sixth game, at Yankee Stadium, and Harvey is lined up for the April 8 home opener against the Red Sox.

Kremer and Zimmermann are rookies. Means has made 37 starts spread over the last two seasons. López has made 33 in parts of five seasons.

“We’re going to be really, really young on the mound, in the rotation for the most part, and inexperienced,” Hyde said, “and what a great opportunity for these guys to pitch in the toughest division in the game. And for me, this is how you can really improve is to be facing the guys that they’re going to face on a nightly basis day in and day out. Every start’s going to be a battle, they’re going to be facing somebody good. Not only a good opponent, good lineup, a good starter on the other end. It’s a great test for our players.”

Félix Hernández has another bullpen session coming up, but Hyde didn’t expand on the update. Whether the veteran right-hander has a shot at the opening day roster.

Don’t read too much into Rio Ruiz starting at second base this afternoon. This isn’t part of some master plan to make him the backup.

“It’s something I had planned a while ago,” Hyde said. “I have put him over there late-game a couple times the past couple years and I wanted to make sure that if it happened again during the season that I got him some reps at second base. There was an extra-inning game last year and then late in a game in Detroit, I remember, two years ago, so I wanted to make sure I got him over there. That was on my list of things to do.

“It’s good for us to see him over there. It’s great for him to increase versatility, also, but it’s more to be able to not surprise him during the year.”

Hyde is comfortable breaking camp with a three-man bench. It’s the price paid for a 14-man pitching staff.

“I don’t know the length that we’re going to get out of our starters, and so to have an extra pitcher, I’d rather be a pitcher too many than a pitcher short,” he said. “I think I’ve covered it. We’re going to need pitching, so we might be carrying more pitchers than in a normal year.”

Hyde expects to see new pitcher Adam Plutko later today or Monday.

I’ve written about players at the alternate camp site in Bowie having permission to compete against the Nationals and Phillies rather than stick to intrasquad games. Washington manager Davey Martinez offered more specifics today in his Zoom call, saying the Nats will play the Orioles two or three times a week in April and the games will have umpires.

Hyde said he’s been vaccinated, but didn’t follow up on his comments last night about talking to Means regarding the left-hander’s decision to get a shot on the night that he started.

“I do encourage our players to get vaccinated,” Hyde said. “I know the league’s behind it and our ownership is behind it. I think Mike (Elias) addressed that last night, the John Means situation, so I don’t really want to dive into that.”

The Orioles will stay in Sarasota for Tuesday’s mandatory off-day, work out Wednesday and fly to Boston.

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