"I'm doing better now," said Zimmer by telephone Saturday. "It happened on the 23rd of December; it was my wife's birthday, and all the kids were over at the house, this and that, I wasn't being myself, and I guess it was recognizable. Somebody said, 'Gramps ain't doing too good, what's the problem?' Before you know it, I just knew I wasn't right and had to go to the doctor."
Zimmer, 78, said doctors diagnosed his problem as a slight stroke.
"And it hurt my speech more than anything," Zimmer said. "I couldn't hardly talk. I knew what I wanted to say, but it wouldn't come out. It's gotten a lot better since then. I feel all right, I'm a little slow. Of course, I haven't been too fast the last five or six years anyhow. So the slowness won't hurt me."
Zimmer reigns as one of baseball's most colorful and beloved figures after playing for parts of 12 seasons in the Major Leagues before spending another 40 years as a manager, coach or advisor.
Zimmer began his current position with the Rays in January 2004. When asked if he thought he'd be ready by Spring Training, Zimmer replied: "I hope so, I hope so."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.