|10:10 AM PT11:10 AM MT12:10 PM CT1:10 PM ET13:10 ET17:10 GMT1:10 10:10 AM MST12:10 PM EST12:40 PM VEN21:10 UAE12:10 PM CT, March 30, 2018
Comerica Park, Detroit, Michigan Attendance: 42,516
Zimmermann, Tigers eager for opener vs. Pirates
New Detroit Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire surprised a lot of people when he named right-hander Jordan Zimmermann as his Opening Day starter. Zimmermann is eager to show that Gardenhire's faith wasn't unwarranted.
Zimmermann had to wait an extra 24 hours to take the mound, as the Tigers' home opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates was postponed from Thursday to Friday afternoon because of inclement weather.
"I feel like I did everything I could to get to this point and get this opportunity on Opening Day, to come out here and pitch in front of these fans," Zimmermann said. "It means a lot and I know it means a lot to them. It's a big day for the fans and obviously for us, too. I'm excited to get out there and hopefully get us our first win of the year."
Zimmermann struggled mightily during his first two seasons in Detroit after signing a five-year, $110 million free-agent contract. He had an 8-13 record and 6.08 ERA last season, yet the former Minnesota Twins manager opted to go with the 31-year-old right-hander over 2016 American League Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer.
"For me, it's a natural," Gardenhire said. "I never really thought too much about anybody other than him."
Zimmermann gave up four runs on nine hits in five innings against Philadelphia in his last spring outing after tossing five scoreless frames versus the New York Yankees. He is 1-3 lifetime against the Pirates.
There may be some excitement about the opener but the rest of the season promises to be a long one for Detroit.
The franchise has gone into full rebuild mode, trading away ace Justin Verlander and slugging outfielders Justin Upton and J.D. Martinez for prospects last season. Over the offseason, the Tigers dealt second baseman Ian Kinsler.
Newcomers to the lineup include center fielder Leonys Martin, a low-level free agent and career .247 hitter, and Dixon Machado, who will replace Kinsler after serving as a backup infielder last season. But former MVP Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez are still around.
"We've got some pretty good players, some veterans that really know how to do it," Gardenhire said. "Miguel is one of the best hitters I've ever seen in the game and Victor's tormented me from a lot of different teams for a long time."
The Pirates are also expected to have a long season after trading away longtime center fielder Andrew McCutchen and ace Gerrit Cole.
Infielder David Freese shrugs off the predictions that the team could be destined for a last-place finish in the rugged National League Central Division.
"I don't really (care) about expectations outside of the room. I think we put enough on ourselves," Freese told MLB.com. "Maybe some people use individual expectations as fuel, but collectively as a team, man, we couldn't care less what people think."
Another 31-year old, Ivan Nova, will start the opener. He went 11-14 with a 4.14 ERA last season.
"Awesome. It's a privilege," Nova told MLB.com. "Every starting pitcher's dream is to start the season for a team, be the Opening Day guy."
Manager Clint Hurdle calls Nova, 0-3 in his career against Detroit, the dean of a mostly young rotation.
The key newcomer to the lineup is Corey Dickerson, who was acquired in a trade with Tampa Bay. He had 27 homers and 62 RBIs last season.
Updated March 29, 2018