Zimmermann lined up for home opener

Right-hander no stranger to pitching in big atmospheres

Zimmermann lined up for home opener

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Jordan Zimmermann has pitched in snow, he points out, having grown up in Wisconsin. He pitched in worse conditions than that. He also has pitched in big atmospheres.

He still could be in for an experience with the Tigers' home opener, and not just for the weather.

"I heard it's pretty crazy," Zimmermann said after he threw three scoreless innings in a 7-3 win against the Astros on Wednesday at Osceola County Stadium. "I don't know much about it, but I'm excited and hopefully give them a good showing."

It was not the original plan for Zimmermann's first pitch as a Tiger to be the club's first pitch in Detroit this season. Zimmermann originally was lined up to pitch the second game of the season in Miami on April 5, with Anibal Sanchez set to start the Comerica Park portion of the schedule.

Sanchez feels 'fantastic' after simulated game

Sanchez's delay this spring with triceps inflammation forced a change of plans. While Sanchez believes he'll be ready for the regular season, getting him three starts into the remaining two weeks of Spring Training takes him off that schedule.

If manager Brad Ausmus has to hand the ball to anyone who hasn't experienced the holiday atmosphere that envelops the start of baseball season in Detroit, he'll go with the steady Zimmermann.

Spring Training: Tickets | Schedule | Information

"He's a guy I like in that atmosphere," Ausmus told reporters before Wednesday's game.

Likewise, that's an atmosphere Zimmermann likes to see. He pitched the Nationals' home opener two years ago and struck out nine Atlanta Braves over five innings of one-run ball. That still might not completely prepare him for this.

Zimmermann picks off Correa

"It's gonna be awesome," Zimmermann said. "I'm excited to pitch in front of the home fans and go out there against the Yankees and try to have a good game."

If Zimmermann can replicate his pitches from Wednesday, he'll probably do fine. Facing a trio of gifted young Astros in Jose Altuve, George Springer and Carlos Correa, Zimmermann struck out the side in order in the opening inning. He threw 17 pitches, and the majority of them were moving.

Altuve swung and missed badly on an offspeed pitch to lead off the inning, and then Springer took a two-seamer that snuck onto the corner for a called third strike. Zimmermann finished the inning with a solid at-bat to Correa, who took back-to-back strikes, fouled off a couple fastballs and then whiffed on the curve.

Spring Training: Tickets | Schedule | Information

"Curveball. I yanked a couple of those," Zimmermann said, "but I also threw a few good ones."

Zimmermann ran into trouble in the second inning when he caught a fingernail in a seam and ripped it, leaving him with a torn nail and an open cut. He hit two batters that inning before retiring Jake Marisnick to strand the bases loaded, but Zimmermann said the nail had no impact.

"I was throwing a couple changeups and it ripped a little bit," Zimmermann said, "but it'll be fine."

That's pretty much his approach to the home opener as well.

"I've pitched in some horrible weather," Zimmermann said. "If it's 40 degrees, I'll be fine."

That can be a big "if" in Michigan in April.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.