Jordan Zimmermann’s Two-Hour Retirement Ends With An Unexpected Call-Up By The Milwaukee Brewers

Jordan Zimmermann’s Two-Hour Retirement Ends With An Unexpected Call-Up By The Milwaukee Brewers

For about two hours Thursday, Jordan Zimmermann thought his 12-year Major League Baseball career had come to an end.

The veteran right-hander, who’d signed a pair of minor league contracts with the Milwaukee Brewers this spring, had spent the first month of the 2021 season at the team’s alternate training site in Appleton, Wis. and wasn’t interested in heading to Nashville to start the Triple-A season.

“I had an April 30 opt-out and we had an off-day on Wednesday,” said Zimmermann, a Wisconsin native who made a pair of All-Star appearances and two top-10 Cy Young Award finishes with the Nationals. “I was kind of sick of driving an hour and a half one-way to Appleton so I called my agent and said ‘I think I’m ready to hang ’em up. I’d done enough of going to Appleton.’

“He said ‘OK, I’ll let (the Brewers) know.’ 

The retirement didn’t last long. Two hours after notifying the Brewers of his decision, Zimmermann was adjusting to his new life from the comfort his lakefront cottage in Northern Wisconsin when the team called him back, wondering how quickly he could get to Milwaukee after placing right-hander hander Corbin Burnes on the injured list.

It didn’t take Zimmermann long to rethink his decision. He, his wife and children, packed up their car quickly for the six-hour drive to Milwaukee and Zimmermann arrived at American Family Field minutes before first pitch of the Brewers’ Thursday-night game against the Dodgers. 

“I wasn’t going to say no,” Zimmermann said. “I wanted to be here (with the Brewers) the whole time but I was getting close to my opt-out and didn’t get a call so I figured it was probably time (to retire).”


Milwaukee signed Zimmermann, who turns 35 in May, to a minor league deal a week before pitchers and catchers reported for the start of Spring training. Long removed from his success with the Nationals, Zimmermann knew he still had plenty left in the tank despite going 1-13 with a 6.91 ERA with the Tigers in 2019 and slogging through injury during the shortened 2020 season. 

The Brewers knew they weren’t getting the pitcher that led the National League with 19 victories in 2013 but thought his experience, veteran leadership and ability to work multiple innings would provide some flexibility and depth to a pitching corps as it adjusts back to a normal 162-game schedule.

Zimmermann posted a 7.88 ERA in five Cactus League appearances as he went through his own adjustment process. Milwaukee released him ahead of an opt-out date in his original deal but hoped to keep him in the mix. The two sides ultimately agreed to terms on a second deal that would let Zimmerman start the season at the alternate training site, located about 100 miles from his home in rural Arpin, Wis.

“When we talked to Jordan at the end of spring training, it was with the understanding that, he’d give it a month,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “He wasn’t planning on going to Nashville but the fact that the alternate site was in Wisconsin, here, that he would stay here for that month and it’s perfectly understandable, really.”

There, Zimmermann faced another challenge. Not only was he settling into a new role, he was doing so in an environment without any sort of actual competition. 

“It was tough,” Zimmermann said. “You’re trying to be as competitive as you can but one inning, you’ve got infielders with no outfielders and the next inning, you’ve got outfielders and no infielders. It kind of messes with your brain a little bit but we did the best we could with what we had for players there.”

The lack of game action doesn’t worry Zimmermann. He was able to throw on a near-daily basis and this week, threw a bullpen session Tuesday ahead of his off-day then played catch upon his arrival in Milwaukee Thursday.

How the Brewers plan to use him has yet to be determined — Counsell has yet to name a starter to take Burnes’ spot Sunday — but whatever his role, Zimmermann will be ready. 

“It’s crazy,” Zimmermann said. “I’ve always wanted to play for the Brewers so this is kind of a dream come true but if you had asked me on Tuesday or Wednesday if this would ever happen, I probably would have told you no.

“Crazy things happen in this game. Unfortunately, Corbin (went on the IL) but that’s the way it goes. I’m happy to fill in and when the phone in the bullpen rings, I’ll be ready.”

Published at Sat, 01 May 2021 01:32:10 +0000

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