Ausmus can't commit to Zimm's return

Ausmus can't commit to Zimm's return

CLEVELAND -- Jordan Zimmermann's next outing will not be on the mound in an actual game for the Tigers, who are not saying that the right-hander will make another start this season. 

Zimmermann, who threw 80 pitches in a simulated game last Wednesday in hopes of shoring up his mechanics, will throw another simulated game on Tuesday at Minnesota instead of facing the Twins. The Tigers will choose between Anibal Sanchez, Mike Pelfrey and Buck Farmer to start the middle game of that series Wednesday night at Target Field. 

Though Zimmermann and the Tigers reported improvement, they're still looking for more consistency, repeating his delivery. Manager Brad Ausmus said they're also looking to build his arm strength. 

Asked if he would anticipate Zimmermann making another start before season's end, Ausmus said, "Too soon to tell. We'll see how it goes on Tuesday." 

If Zimmermann is going to start another game, he's running out of time for opportunities. A simulated game of 80 pitches or so Tuesday would rule out a Zimmermann start until at least next weekend, when the Tigers host the Royals at Comerica Park. The Tigers then face the Indians in their following series, a critical one in Detroit's postseason chase.

The Tigers conclude their regular season with three games at Atlanta. But if the Tigers are still in the postseason race at that point, those games will surely have meaning. And if not, there's little reason to risk bringing back Zimmermann. At this point, Zimmermann's struggles have made his return a catch-22. 

Zimmermann has made just two starts since the end of June, sidelined by what the Tigers have listed as a recurring neck strain. Both times, on Aug. 4 and Sept. 10, he gave up six runs without getting out of the second inning, making his dominant April a distant memory. 

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.