Baseball America

American League

A White Sox flamethrower looks forward after injuries PAGE 31

A Royals lefty looks for a strong encore after leading minors in strikeouts PAGE 32

A Mariners righthander feels like he belongs PAGE 33

PAGE 33 Rayn Jeffers’ explosive bat and new catching technique give the Twins reason for excitement.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Lefthander Bruce Zimmermann’s dreams of pitching for the Orioles, his hometown team, created a childhood baseball fantasy that came true during the first week of Grapefruit League games.

Though he wore a spring training uniform, it was close enough to the real thing.

The 25-year-old Zimmermann, a native of Ellicott City, Md., was acquired in the 2018 trade that sent righthanders Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day to the Braves.

Zimmermann was the Braves’ 2017 fifth-round pick out of Division II Mount Olive in North Carolina.

Orioles manager Brandon Hyde was impressed right away by the 6-foot-2, 215-pound southpaw’s side work in camp as a non-roster invitee.

Hyde wasn’t the only one.

“Judging by our hitters’ reactions to his stuff, they were all very impressed,” Hyde said. “He’s got life to his fastball. I saw a good breaking ball in his live BP, also.”

Zimmermann followed starter Asher Wojciechowski in a Feb. 26 game against the Braves. The first batter he faced, prospect Bryce Ball, homered on his first pitch.

Not quite how Zimmermann envisioned it as a kid. But he induced two double plays in two innings and was saddled with only one run.

“The guy put a good swing on it,” Zimmermann said. “The same thing you do in a normal outing if that happens. You just put it behind you and you try to get back in the dugout as quickly as possible.”

Zimmermann’s fastball touched 94 mph and he mixed in all of his secondary stuff, just as he did at Double-A Bowie last summer while recording a 2.58 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 18 appearances before a promotion to Triple-A Norfolk.

Zimmermann ranks as the No. 16 prospect in the organization heading into the 2020 season.

“I’m just really proud of that guy for the work ethic and willingness to go out and work to improve all facets of his game,” minor league director of pitching Chris Holt said.

“He’s certainly a guy who does fly below the radar, but certainly a guy who is capable of being an impact guy at the big league level at some point.”

—ROCH KUBATKO

BOSTON RED SOX

For roughly two months of 2019, out-fielder Jarren Duran looked like a potential top-of-the-order force who might be capable of fast-tracking to the big leagues.

His 80-grade speed played not only on the bases but also opened the field in ways that threatened to turn nearly every batted ball into a hit. It also eased his transition from second base to an everyday role in center.

Duran, a 2018 seventh-rounder from Long Beach State, dominated to start his first full pro season, hitting .387/.456/.583 with 18 stolen bases in 50 games at high Class A Salem.

But a midyear promotion to Double-A proved challenging.

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