Retiring Jordan Zimmermann gets emotional discussing Detroit experience

FILE Jordan Zimmermann
Posted at 4:28 PM, May 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-12 16:28:19-04

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Jordan Zimmermann retired Tuesday two appearances into his 13th season in the major leagues, ending a career in which the two-time All-Star pitched the Washington Nationals’ first no-hitter.

Zimmermann went 95-91 with a 4.07 ERA. He was an NL All-Star in 2013 and ’14 while with the Nationals.

The 34-year-old right-hander from Auburndale, Wisconsin, made two relief appearances for his home-state team this season and had a 0-0 record with a 7.94 ERA.

“My mind was still in it, but my body wasn’t,” Zimmermann said Tuesday. “Living out of suitcases half the year. I felt like it was the right thing to do at this time, to call it a career. I’m happy to start the next chapter of my life.”

Zimmermann thanked the Nationals, Detroit Tigers and Brewers for giving him the opportunity to play and also expressed gratitude to all his friends, teammates and family members.

He initially planned to stop pitching a little earlier.

After signing a minor league deal with the Brewers in February and failing to make the team’s initial major league roster,Zimmermann reported to the team’s alternate site in Appleton but decided at the end of April to retire. He changed his mind when the Brewers promote him to the big leagues on April 29 after multiple pitchers had gone on the injured list. That triggered a one-year contract with a $1 million salary while in the major leagues.

“It was pretty crazy how it happened,” Zimmermann said. “I was basically retired for a couple hours when they gave me a call and say they needed some help so I came down, gave them a few innings and tried to bridge the gap because they had a lot of IL guys. I knew I wouldn’t be there long, but I wanted to be able to help them out and have those other guys get healthy. At this point, there’s a lot of them getting healthier and ready to come back.”

Zimmermann’s greatest success came with Washington, where his rise coincided with the Nationals’ emergence from perennial last-place team to regular playoff participant.

The Nationals were producing their second straight season of 100-plus losses when Zimmermann broke into the majors in 2009. He was a key part of Washington’s rotation when the Nationals won NL East titles in 2012 and 2014.

“To be able to turn that around and have some winning ballclubs and go to the playoffs a few times is something I’ll never forget,” Zimmermann said.

He went 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA and finished seventh in the NL Cy Young Award voting in 2013. He finished fifth in the Cy Young Award balloting the following season after going 14-5 with a 2.66 ERA. He threw a no-hitter in a 1-0 victory over the Marlins on Sept. 28, 2014, the last day of the regular season — a gem that was preserved by a diving catch by outfielder Steven Souza Jr. for the final out.

Zimmermann signed a $110 million, five-year contract with the Detroit Tigers after the 2015 season but couldn’t come close to matching the success he produced in Washington.

After going 70-50 with a 3.32 ERA in seven years with the Nationals, Zimmermann was 25-41 with a 5.63 ERA in five years with Detroit. He went 1-13 with a 6.94 ERA in 2019 and pitched in only three games in 2020 due to a forearm injury.

Zimmermann got emotional as he discussed his Detroit experience.

“Just wish I would have stayed healthy,” said a tearful Zimmermann, who paused for about 30 seconds before finishing his response. “Yeah. I wish I could have gave more. The body just wasn’t holding up.”

Finishing his career in Milwaukee this season enabled the 2007 second-round draft pick from Division III school Wisconsin-Stevens Point to become the 11th Wisconsin native to play for the Brewers.

“I guess my proudest thing would be as a small-town kid who played at a Division III school and made it to the big leagues,” Zimmermann said. “That’s tough to do.”