Bradley Zimmer hasn’t found much enjoyment in baseball over the last two years. In his Major League career, which began in 2017, Zimmer’s battled more injuries than he’s found success. The road has been a difficult one, but might 2020 be the light at the end of a tunnel of setbacks?
Zimmer has emerged as a story at Tribe Summer Camp. After hitting a home run Tuesday in intrasquad action, Zimmer outdid himself with two bombs in a 3-for-3 performance on Wednesday.
The road to this point has featured its obstacles. It started in July of 2018, when a right shoulder injury sidelined Zimmer for 8-12 months. Just when it looked as if he was heading in the right direction in 2019, the outfielder suffered a strain that dampered his rehab plans. Zimmer compiled 13 at-bats at the end of last season, but that small sample size did not show much. His potential has been canceled out by the obstacles and question marks surrounding him.
All Zimmer sees that as is motivation to prove doubters wrong.
“This is honestly what I’ve expected,” he said. “I think, probably coming into this, a lot of people haven’t really looked at me as an option and I’ve probably been overlooked. But in my mind, through the quarantine, it gave me more time to get ready to come out here and prove that I’m here for a reason.”
Terry Francona’s not overlooking his speedy outfielder.
“I don’t think you ever forget that,” Francona said of Zimmer’s potential. “It sure is nice to see what he can do. He hits the ball out the other way. He hits the ball to straight center. He played left field tonight (Wednesday), which he hasn’t played a lot of. It’s exciting.”
“It tells me that I’m in a good spot,” Zimmer said of his swing when asked about going to the opposite field and straightaway center. “When I’m driving the ball that way, I know that I’m balanced and that I’m seeing the ball the way that I want to. I’m staying on it.”
Tribe pitcher Mike Clevinger, who gave up Zimmer’s two home runs, is noticing the change in approach.
“The way he’s changed his stance, you can’t just beat him up and in like he’s been used to,” Clevinger said. “He used to talk to me about it too before in AAA. You used to be able to beat him all day, inside high heaters in the strike zone. He would never get to it because that’s how long he is. Now, bringing those arms in and getting to his legs, because the kid’s all legs, he’s going to be a dangerous, dangerous player with that speed.”
That speed is an area that the Tribe will be looking to find an edge with in the AL Central. Cleveland doesn’t have the home run power of the Twins, who led all of Major League Baseball last year with 307 bombs (Indians – 15th, 223 HR). That said, Minnesota was dead last in the league with just 28 total stolen bases. Cleveland was sixth in the league with 103 swipes, and a healthy Zimmer would only help that cause.
As for how he’s approaching the 2020 campaign, Zimmer only sees one avenue.
“I’m all in man,” he said. “You’ve heard the term, ‘it’s a sprint.’ I mean, 60 games, in however many days, that’s still a lot of baseball games. I think the key is just treating this as normal as you can.”
“It’s good to be back.”