SARASOTA, Fla. - Some of the minor league pitchers he played with last year have long since been sent back over to the Orioles’ minor league camp. But Ellicott City native Bruce Zimmermann is still in the O’s big league camp and seems to be building some momentum with each outing.
The lefty’s ERA is 4.70 over three spring games, but he threw three scoreless innings while allowing just one hit in Port Charlotte, Fla., against the Rays last Saturday. He fanned three and retired the last seven batters he faced. He is scheduled to start tonight in Fort Myers against Minnesota.
The 2013 Loyola High School graduate, who also played two years at Towson University, would like to become the next local product to make the Orioles. He can already anticipate that big day whenever it comes.
“It will definitely be the height of my baseball career and probably in my life,” Zimmermann said yesterday at Ed Smith Stadium. “It will mean the world to me and I do have a lot of family and friends in Baltimore, so I know there will be a lot of people out there supporting me. It will be a career highlight. I can’t wait to toe that rubber and hear them call my name.
“The longer I can stay here (in camp) the better. The more I stay here the more I get to learn from these guys that are where I want to be and want to go. Definitely exciting to still be over here and show what I can do.”
Zimmermann is holding out hope he could even break north with the team for opening day. Is that ambitious? Maybe, but he’s aiming high.
“Without getting too excited about it, I still hope that’s an option,” he said. “And I’m going to keep playing like that’s an option for me. Let the chips fall, and it definitely would be a highlight for not only my career but my life to finally get that check mark, as one might say.”
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 .227 average against. In 38 2/3 with Norfolk he pitched to a 4.89 ERA.
I asked Zimmermann, acquired by the Orioles on July 31, 2018 in a trade with Atlanta, where he made the biggest advances in his pitching last season.
“We just had some talks about some adjustments in my game that we could do that comes with some of the analytics and things like that we thought would make positive adjustments,” he said. “And kind of took them and just went all in on them. Made those little adjustments to my game and saw really good results with how we implemented them. And not doing that for just a month or two, but extended over the life of an entire season and into this offseason and continue to build on it, and saw success and want to build on that going forward.”
And he saw results in an area that is important for any left-handed pitcher.
“One of the big ones (in my improvement), was how I attack righties,” Zimmermann said. “Obviously, as a lefty pitcher you are going to sacrifice a few more hits or whatnot. Definitely being able to attack righties and have better success against them was a highlight of it, and that came from the adjustments we made.
“I think it was (a huge boost for me). It was big enough that it made the difference in my season and helping get to Triple-A and having success at the higher levels. And I think we haven’t reached the ceiling, by any means. Just being able to have the resources now in this organization that they’ve implemented in the past couple of years behind Sig (Mejdal), it’s been exciting.”
Zimmermann’s fastball sits in the 90-94 mph range and he adds a curve, slider and changeup to that. The fastball-changeup combo is big for him, and so is pitching inside to set up his off-speed stuff away.
Baseball America rates him as the Orioles’ No. 16 prospect, while MLBPipeline.com puts him at No. 29.
“The past couple outings feel like I’ve gotten stronger,” Zimmermann said. “Gotten some better results and definitely feels like things are starting to click.”
He often went to Camden Yards while a student at Loyola Blakefield. At some point during the upcoming season he might be pitching on the mound he used to look at from the stands.
The local kid seems to be enjoying his time with the local team.
“I could not have asked for anything else. They’ve been a class act organization,” said Zimmermann.