It has only happened one other time in Orioles franchise history, and this will be the first time in Camden Yards’ 30-year history: A native Marylander is starting the O’s home opener.
Bruce Zimmermann, born in Baltimore and a 2013 graduate of Loyola Blakefield (formerly Loyola High School), will start Monday’s game at Camden Yards against the reigning N.L. Central Champions, the Milwaukee Brewers.
“It means everything. Getting that opportunity, that Hyde believes in me to do that. I know the nerves are going to be really high, but I’m very excited. It’s an awesome opportunity.”Bruce Zimmermann on getting to start the Orioles’ home opener
He will be part of the fluid answer to the question of who else makes up the starting rotation after John Means and Jordan Lyles in the first two games, and then a tandem of Tyler Wells and the proverbial TBA pitcher trying to fill the innings in Sunday’s game at Tampa Bay.
Zimmermann was undrafted out of high school in the 2013 MLB Draft and enrolled at Towson University before transferring to the University of Mount Olive in North Carolina after his sophomore year. In 2017, as a senior at Mount Olive, he went 9-2 with a 3.18 ERA in 15 starts, striking out 129 batters in 99 innings.
The Atlanta Braves took him in the fifth round of the 2017 draft and signed him for $10,000. He made it as high as the Double-A Mississippi Braves before being sent to the Orioles along with Jean Carlos Encarnacion, Brett Cumberland and Evan Phillips, as well as international signing money, in the trade that sent Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day to Atlanta in July of 2018.
The Orioles assigned him to Double-A Bowie, where he finished the 2018 season, then promoted him to Triple-A Norfolk in July of 2019. Over 25 games (24 starts) between the two levels, Zimmermann pitched to a 7-6 record with a 3.21 ERA, striking out 134 over 140 innings.
Infamously, 2020 had no minor league season because of COVID. His addition to the Orioles’ 60-player Alternate Training Site was delayed to August 2020 due to his recovery from the virus.
Hours after he was added to the team’s 40-man roster when his contract was selected by the Orioles, Zimmermann started and pitched three innings in a 10-6 loss to Tampa Bay in the second game of a doubleheader at Camden Yards on September 17, 2020.
Last season, he was placed on the 60-day injured list. Nearing a return from biceps tendinitis, he suffered a sprained right ankle. He was activated from the injured list last September 28.
He was kept on the team out of spring training last week, and here he is, becoming a part of Orioles history Monday, in addition to being the pride of Loyola Blakefield and Towson.
“I’ll definitely have a host of family, and I don’t know how many friends and ex-teammates in the stands, but it’s going to be a very exciting day. I really can’t wait. My brother was ridiculously excited when I called him, so I know he’s going to enjoy every minute of it.”Bruce Zimmermann on his family and friends’ reaction to starting the Orioles’ home opener
He is the only Maryland-born player at any position to be in an Oriole starting lineup since Cal Ripken Jr. and Brady Anderson in 2001.
The only other time a Baltimore-born player has started the Orioles’ home opener was in 1968, when Tom Phoebus did it. The Mount St. Joseph High School graduate defeated the Oakland A’s, 3-1, and added a no-hitter that season against the Boston Red Sox.
He pitched seven seasons in the majors with the Orioles, Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres, compiling a 56-52 record with a 3.33 ERA.
His major league debut consisted of consecutive complete-game shutouts in September of 1966, and he was named the Sporting News Rookie of the Year in 1967, winning a career-high 15 games. He then won 14 in 1969, including the American League Eastern Division clincher over Cleveland. He also won game two of the 1970 World Series as a reliever in the third and fourth innings.
He was part of the trade with San Diego that brought Pat Dobson to the Orioles in 1971, when Dobson was one of the O’s four 20-game winners. Phoebus finished his career with the Cubs in 1972, later earning an education degree and becoming a physical education teacher. He passed at age 77 in 2017.
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