DETROIT -- Jordan Zimmermann took a wrong turn on his way to his Tigers debut and received his first experience of downtown Detroit construction, circling Comerica Park a couple of times before figuring out which street to take in. It also gave him his first experience of what Opening Day means in this city.
"I turned some place, and I was driving by all the fans and past a bunch of bars and stuff," he said. "I saw they were having a good time way before the game, and I was glad I pitched a good game and gave them something to keep celebrating about."
It wasn't flashy, with three strikeouts and a fastball Zimmermann said he battled to try to command. But it was extremely effective, with eight consecutive Yankees retired from the fourth inning into the seventh. And mercifully for a sellout crowd, given the 38-degree first-pitch temperature, it was quick.
"I like to work fast and let the hitter put the ball in play," said Zimmermann, who took the mound in short sleeves.
Fans weren't the only ones appreciative.
"Whenever we have a pitcher that is able to work fast and pound the zone and continuously bring batters into the box and get them out of the box, keep the tempo going, infielders love that," third baseman Nick Castellanos said.
In short, it was a near-perfect first impression of who Zimmermann is as a pitcher.
"He's no-nonsense, no frills," manager Brad Ausmus said. "He doesn't mind the spotlight, but he doesn't need the spectacle."
Said catcher James McCann: "He's a guy that just wants the ball every five days and wants to give his team a chance to win. One of the most unselfish guys I've been around, a big-time guy, wants everybody to do well. He's a bulldog. You saw the way he goes out and attacks hitters. He wants to let his defense work. I look forward to catching him some more."
Zimmermann didn't get the spotlight as often as one might have expected in a Washington rotation that has had Stephen Strasburg the last five years and added Max Scherzer last season, not to mention Bryce Harper in the lineup. While other Nationals might have constituted appointment viewing, Zimmermann was a joy to watch, even if he was easy for many to miss.
He hit the market just off the top tier of the free-agent class, found near-immediate interest from the Tigers and signed a five-year, $110 million contract over Thanksgiving weekend. Detroit saw him as a workhorse who could slot behind Justin Verlander. Once Anibal Sanchez moved up to pitch the second game in Miami on Wednesday, Zimmermann was technically third.
He wasn't counting.
"They could pitch me first game, fifth game, I don't care," he said. "As long as I'm going out there every five days, you can put me in wherever. I'm not that guy that needs to pitch the first game of the season or anything. As long as I'm in the rotation and going out there every five days, that's all that matters to me."
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.