Posted on: June 29, 2010 2:42 pm
Edited on: June 29, 2010 2:51 pm
Believe it or not, the news isn't that bad for Joel Zumaya.
In fact, the Tiger reliever, who suffered a cringe-inducing injury Monday night in Minnesota, could be back pitching at the start of next season. The initial MRI exam on Zumaya's elbow showed that rather than tearing a ligament that would require Tommy John surgery, he has a non-displaced fracture of the olecranon, which is the bone behind the elbow.
Zumaya is not expected to need surgery.
He'll miss the rest of this season, but the projected recovery time is four months, rather than the full year that pitchers normally require after ligament surgery.
The Tigers placed Zumaya on the disabled list today, replacing him on the roster with Casey Fien. Finding someone to take Zumaya's eighth-inning role will be more difficult, but there's some hope that Ryan Perry could do it, once he comes off the disabled list (probably later this week).
This is the latest in a string of unusual injuries for Zumaya, who will turn 26 in November. In 2007, he ruptured a tendon in his right middle finger. A year later, he tore the AC joint in his shoulder, an injury more common among football players.
Posted on: June 29, 2010 2:05 am
He did things no one else could.
Not just 100 mph fastballs, but one after another. Not just 100 mph, but 102, 103 and, according to MLB.com's GameDay, even 104.8 mph.
But Joel Zumaya also got hurt like one else did.
The tendon in his index finger burst, on that awful night in Kansas City. His shoulder came apart, on that awful day at home in San Diego. And now, apparently, it's his elbow, on the mound at Target Field on Monday night, for all to see.
You cringe, just looking at the tape, watching him collapse in pain, his right hand twitching as his left hand goes to the wounded elbow. You'd cringe if it was anyone, but somehow it seems worse because it's Zumaya, who has been through all this before.
I'm sitting here in Atlanta, after watching another kid from San Diego who can throw the ball harder than anyone else. I'm sitting here thinking that this is why we should never talk about Stephen Strasburg's future -- or any pitcher's future -- without adding the disclaimer, "as long as he stays healthy."
Zumaya was huge in 2006. Not Strasburg-huge, but huge enough that the Comerica Park fans went nuts the moment he ran in from the bullpen. You just don't see that for a middle reliever -- but you just don't see middle relievers, or anyone else, hitting triple-digits with the regularity that Zumaya did.
He was great, and he was fun. I won't forget the day in spring training 2007, when Tom Gage of the Detroit News and I sat outside the clubhouse in Lakeland, Fla., with Zumaya, as he told us about his drive across the country, with his brother riding alongside and his grandmother in the back seat.
The way he told it, he drove at triple-digits, too.
But then the injuries came. That night in Kansas City, the bullpen door opened, but instead of Zumaya heading for the mound, he headed towards the dugout, holding his hand and writhing in pain. No one knew whether he would pitch again, or if he would ever throw hard if he did pitch.
Then there was the shoulder. He was moving boxes in the attic, worried that his family would need to evacuate because of the San Diego fires. And when one of the boxes fell on him, he had shoulder injury that pitchers just don't get, and certainly don't come back from.
But he did come back, and when I saw Zumaya last week at Citi Field, the only thing I said to him was, "It's good to see you healthy."
He was back to throwing as hard as ever. Even the last pitch he threw Monday, the one to Delmon Young that we can't watch without a cringe, showed up at 99 mph.
We can only hope that someday, we'll see him throw another one.
Posted on: April 5, 2010 6:34 pm
It was opening day, 2006, at Kauffman Stadium.
Joel Zumaya was 21 years old, making his major-league debut. Tigers manager Jim Leyland handed him a one-run lead in the seventh inning, and Zumaya responded with two scoreless innings.
And two 101 mph fastballs.
It's opening day 2010, at Kauffman Stadium.
Joel Zumaya is 25 years old, but still trying to prove that he can come all the way back from shoulder surgery. Jim Leyland put him in the game in the sixth inning, and Zumaya responded with a seven-pitch shutout inning.
And four fastballs, clocked by MLB.com gameday at 101, 101, 101 and 102 mph.
Zumaya threw four more fastballs in the seventh inning, with all four clocked in triple-digits. That's 8 for 8.
Zumaya's emergence had a lot to do with the Tigers going all the way to the World Series in 2006. We'll have to see about 2010.
One big difference between opening day 2006 and opening day 2010: Kenny Rogers was the Tigers' opening day starter four years ago, and after watching Zumaya follow him, Rogers said, "I told [Zumaya], 'Don't fall asleep, because I might steal five miles an hour from you.' I've thrown pitches that hard, but only after they came off the bat."
Justin Verlander was the Tigers' opening day starter today. Verlander threw five pitches clocked at 100 mph.
Posted on: July 18, 2009 2:57 pm
NEW YORK -- He was 21 years old, and he threw 100 mph.
In that summer of 2006, Joel Zumaya was the most exciting setup man in baseball. Everybody was talking about him. Everybody wanted to see him.
And every time the scoreboard lit up with the magical triple digits, everyone in every ballpark he visited reacted with an "ooooh!"
Now it's three years later. Zumaya is still just 24 years old. He's back on the disabled list, for the fifth time in the last three years.
There are even fears his career could be over.
The Tigers weren't saying much on Saturday, as they waited for the results of tests on Zumaya's right shoulder. But he told reporters after Friday night's game that he heard a pop as he threw a pitch, and the fear is that his shoulder is right back to where it was when he needed AC reconstruction surgery on Halloween day in 2007.
"It's just heartbreaking to see," said Tigers bullpen coach Jeff Jones, who has become close with Zumaya. "Hopefully, this is nothing, and he'll be back. But right now, this hurts all of us."
Zumaya isn't as popular with Tiger fans as he once was. He had been struggling before he hurt his shoulder Friday night, to the point where manager Jim Leyland said he planned to flip-flop Zumaya with Brandon Lyon, using Zumaya in the seventh inning and Lyon in the eighth.
Still, in the Tiger clubhouse, where Zumaya's teammates and coaches have seen what he has been through the last three years, this latest injury hit hard.
"I'm concerned for the kid," Leyland said. "This has been a nightmare for this kid for 2-3 years. You obviously feel bad for him, because you're talking about a career. But I don't know. For all I know, he could be back pitching in two weeks, or he could miss the rest of the year.
"You hope it's just another setback. But he's had a lot of them."
Zumaya was on the disabled list three times in four minor-league seasons, but those setbacks were minor. He was healthy all through 2006, when he had a 1.94 ERA and helped carry the Tigers to the World Series.
Since then, it's been almost nothing but bad news.
He was warming up in the bullpen in Kansas City in early May of 2007, when he felt a pop in his right middle finger. It turned out to be a tear that required surgery.
That October, Zumaya was home in San Diego, worrying about wildfires in the area and preparing to possibly evacuate his house. A box fell on his shoulder, causing major damage that required surgery. At the time, doctors told him that no pitcher had ever come back from that injury.
Zumaya did come back. This summer, he was again throwing harder than any pitcher in baseball, shocking some medical people.
And yet it didn't last.
The Tigers say there was no sign of anything wrong until Friday. Really, they say, there wasn't anything wrong until several pitches after Mark Teixeira's three-run home run.
Leyland said Zumaya's arm slot has been different this year -- he was less over-the-top than pre-surgery -- but Leyland and everyone else with the Tigers said there was no sign of any pain.
They hope the sharp pain Zumaya felt Friday was just the result of scar tissue breaking up, but the fear is that it's something far worse.
The real fear is that Zumaya could be done, for this year or maybe for good, and that all we'll be left with are the memories.
Posted on: July 18, 2009 10:00 am
NEW YORK -- Joel Zumaya throws hard, but he also gets hurt.
Sure enough, Zumaya is back on the Tigers' disabled list, after hurting his shoulder in a 5-3 loss to the Yankees Friday night.
"I can't lift my arm right now," Zumaya told reporters after the game. He said he was going back to Detroit for an MRI exam.
The Tigers recalled rookie right-hander Ryan Perry from Triple-A Toledo to take Zumaya's roster spot.
Posted on: March 28, 2009 1:42 pm
Now iffy has become "highly unlikely."
Manager Jim Leyland said today that he doesn't expect Bonderman in his rotation when the season begins April 6 in Toronto. Bonderman had surgery last June to remove a blood clot from his right shoulder, and while he has been able to pitch this spring, he still has a way to go to be ready for a regular-season game.
"I could put Bonderman out there right now, if I'm willing to have him throw 88 mph," Leyland said.
While Leyland can't be sure when Bonderman's first start will be, he said he does believe Bonderman will start 20-plus games for the Tigers this season.
"I feel confident in that," Leyland said. "It's not a slam dunk, but I feel confident."
Bonderman is scheduled to start for the Tigers on Sunday.
Bonderman's absence at the start of the season would leave the Tigers with two spots to fill in their rotation, behind Justin Verlander, Edwin Jackson and Armando Galarraga. Rookie Rick Porcello will likely get one of those two spots. Nate Robertson and Zach Miner are the top candidates for the other spot.
Earlier this spring, Leyland said it was "99.9 percent" that Miner would pitch out of the bullpen this season. Now, he said, Miner is back in the picture.
Leyland also expressed hope that Joel Zumaya will help the Tigers this year, even though Zumaya is also expected to begin the season on the DL. Zumaya pitched in a minor-league game today in Lakeland.
It's hard for the Tigers to have much confidence about Zumaya, who has been on the disabled list three times in the last two years. Bonderman's situation is different.
"He knows it's going to come back," Leyland said. "But it's not there yet."
Posted on: July 27, 2008 4:58 pm
Rodney pitched the final 1 2/3 innings of the Tigers' 6-4 Sunday afternoon win over the White Sox. It wasn't technically a save situation, because Rodney entered with a 6-2 lead, but Leyland sent him out to the mound in the ninth when it was already 6-4.
"I'm going to give Rodney a shot," Leyland said. "Right now, the quality of (Jones') pitches, and the location of the pitches, is not good enough."
In his last 12 appearances, Jones has converted just four of seven save opportunities, and he has an 8.71 ERA in that span with a .400 opponents batting average.
Joel Zumaya will be the setup man, assuming he can stay healthy. Zumaya had some soreness in his right triceps last week in Kansas City, and the same problem forced him out of the game Sunday. But the Tigers don't believe it's serious.
Posted on: June 15, 2008 5:50 pm
Edited on: June 15, 2008 11:02 pm
Last Tuesday, the Tigers were 11 games out, and already thinking they might have to be July sellers. Six days later, they're six games out, and looking dangerous.
"Everybody was burying us, and they should have," manager Jim Leyland said after today's 5-4 win over the Dodgers.
They're not buried, and neither are the Padres, who despite losing two of three over the weekend in Cleveland, have had a similar revival in the NL West. Once 12 1/2 games out, the Padres have already cut it to 6 1/2.
The Tigers added Fernando Rodney to the rotation Sunday, should add Joel Zumaya on Thursday and could add Gary Sheffield next week. The Padres just got Jake Peavy back from the disabled list and brought top prospect Chase Headley to the majors. They should eventually get Chris Young back from the disabled list, too.
Just another reminder of how long the season is, and how quickly things can change. For another reminder, check out something Joel Sherman pointed out in his New York Post column today: A year ago today, the National League division leaders were the Mets, Brewers and Dodgers, and the Padres led the wild-card race. Not one of those four teams made the playoffs.