Zimmermann eyes return to mound Friday

Tigers righty scratched from last start with right groin strain

Zimmermann eyes return to mound Friday

ANAHEIM -- The toughest part of Jordan Zimmermann's path back to the Tigers rotation came Monday, and it didn't involve a single pitch. It did, however, involve a lot of grounders.

Long before the Tigers took the field at Angel Stadium for batting practice, Zimmermann went through a series of fielding drills -- a combination of 15-20 plays that involved fielding bunts, covering first base and throwing to bases, according to manager Brad Ausmus.

"Everything went fine," Zimmermann said. "I did everything. I didn't feel one single thing."

If Zimmermann still feels fine after throwing one more bullpen session Tuesday, he'll be good to start Friday's series opener against the White Sox at Comerica Park, the first meeting of the season between the division rivals.

"All signs are pointing towards Friday right now," Ausmus said, "unless something unexpected happens."

The fielding drills were a big test for Zimmermann after a right groin strain knocked him out of his last start eight days ago. The Tigers have avoided putting him on the disabled list by going a position player short when they called up Matt Boyd for his start a couple days ago. Boyd is set to make a second start for the Tigers on Thursday night at home against the Yankees, a makeup game from an early April postponement.

Essentially, that means the Tigers are going with a six-man rotation for this stretch while they carry a three-man bench. A seventh potential starter awaits as Shane Greene is scheduled to make one more rehab start Tuesday for Triple-A Toledo. The Tigers will have to decide from there what to do with Greene, who has made two rehab starts already on his way back from a right middle finger blister that landed him on the 15-day DL at the end of April.

One way or another -- potentially through the return of Boyd to Toledo and the shift of Greene to a relief role -- the Tigers will get back down to five starters soon. They just haven't decided how yet.

"We're going to wait and see what happens over the next few days before we make that decision," Ausmus said. "One thing I've learned in two years: You just don't know what's going to happen tomorrow in terms of the roster."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. 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.