Jordan Zimmerman had heard about some of the nuances of the hitter-friendly California League. On Saturday, he experienced them firsthand in an impressive debut.
The Angels prospect went 4-for-6 with a homer and a career-high five RBIs as Class A Advanced Inland Empire rolled to an 16-8 romp over Stockton at Banner Island Ballpark. He scored three runs and fell a double shy of the cycle.
"It was good to get back out there after spending a long season and half of last year in [Class A] Burlington," Zimmerman said. "To get up here and move on, it's very exciting for me. And then to come out and have a good start, it was just a fun time."
Gameday box score
The 22-year-old second baseman was promoted from the Midwest League on Friday after producing a .270/.325/.393 slash line with five homers and 43 RBIs in 85 games with the Bees.
"I was shocked a little bit at first," Zimmerman said. "For some reason, I kind of felt like I was going to be there a little longer, but my manager, Adam Melhuse, broke the news to me and I was just excited and told everyone in the clubhouse. They were all very excited and happy for me."
Between packing and catching an early flight to Stockton for Saturday's game, Zimmerman said he didn't get much sleep. But there was no sign of fatigue once he took the field.
After grounding out in his first Cal League at-bat in the first inning, the 2016 seventh-round pick tripled down the right-field line for his first hit at the new level.
"I saw a couple of fastballs early that I either missed or fouled off," he said. "After a slider down, the pitcher tried to go with a fastball a little off the plate and away, and I just got enough barrel on it."
The Michigan State product followed with an infield single leading off the sixth before batting around for an RBI single to center in a seven-run outburst.
"I think we just weren't trying to do too much at the plate," Zimmerman said. "We knew the ball was going to take care of itself, with the wind blowing out today, and there was just no reason to try to do more than you're capable of doing. So I think all the hitters were just trying to stay within ourselves and it worked out."
Facing Ports reliever Joey Wagman with two outs in the seventh, the Arizona native belted a grand slam to left field on a 1-0 pitch to give the 66ers a nine-run cushion.
"I was looking for a fastball in because they probably thought I was looking away since I got a couple of hits to the right side," Zimmerman said. "So I was just looking middle, middle-in and something up that I could get a good barrel on. And I got it."
It was the first career slam for Zimmerman, who has 10 homers since the Angels drafted him in the seventh round last year.
With a chance to hit for the cycle in the ninth, Zimmerman didn't want to stray from his approach and ended up grounding out to second base.
"I was going to go for it, but if I tried, I was probably going to get too big, so I just tried to stay in the right-center field gap," he said. "I put a good swing on it and just missed."
While a debut like this is worth soaking in, Zimmerman said he understands the ebbs and flows of baseball and knows there's a still a long road ahead.
"I feel like my whole season thus far has just been a constant battle of trying to figure out my swing and how I want to play defensively and making slight adjustments to correct little things," he said. "The constant battle at the plate is really what I've had to learn. I have to teach myself how to hit in certain counts and stuff like that. But I was getting prepared in Low-A so, hopefully, I can continue to get better and improve as I go up."
Also going deep for the 66ers were Michael Barash and Keith Grieshaber, who combined for five hits and five RBIs. Brennon Lund collected three hits and Kyle Survance Jr. drove in three runs.