Three months ago, in the midst of recovering from a fractured elbow, Joel Zumaya cautioned that he was one more injury from “finding another job,” but the oft-injured reliever was much more optimistic yesterday after throwing his first bullpen session of the spring.
Zumaya impressed onlookers with his velocity despite not throwing anywhere near maximum effort, which is to be expected from a right-hander who has amazingly never lost his triple-digit fastball despite a series of significant arm injuries.
Zumaya described himself as “having a ball out there” and he’s already advanced to mixing in off-speed pitches that he called “freaking lights-out.” For now though, manager Jim Leyland is still preaching patience:
He was hurt, and he was hurt bad. And now, all of a sudden, he’s feeling really good. You want to go out, you can’t wait to get on the mound and get a hitter in there. That’s normal, and I don’t think you want to act like that’s not there. But you also want to make sure you have that channeled a little bit. Don’t get so excited that you make some sort of foolish mistake, which he won’t.
A healthy Zumaya would give the Tigers an impressive assortment of hard-throwing relievers with closer Jose Valverde, free agent setup man Joaquin Benoit, and youngsters Ryan Perry and Daniel Schlereth. Prior to suffering the gruesome elbow injury last season he had a 2.58 ERA and 34/11 K/BB ratio in 38 innings.
The Athletics have hired former MLB manager Matt Williams, the team announced Friday. Williams will take over third base coaching duties under manager Bob Melvin, filling the vacancy left by Nationals’ bench coach Chip Hale after the 2017 season.
Williams is no stranger to the Bay Area, but this will be his first time sporting the green and gold. He got his start in pro ball with the rival Giants in 1987, where he manned third base and collected four All-Star nominations before jumping ship to the American League in 1997. After a one-year stint in the Indians’ organization, he returned to the NL to finish off his 17-season career and eventually hung up his cleats with the Diamondbacks in 2003.
Post-retirement, Williams has crafted a resume that almost over-qualifies him for a coaching gig. He led the Nationals to a cumulative 179-145 record from 2014 to 2015 and earned props as NL Manager of the Year after bringing the team to a first-place finish in 2014. In 2016, he split the season as a first and third base coach in the D-backs’ organization, then accepted a studio analyst position with the Giants for the 2017 season. Although he has yet to suit up for the Athletics in any role, he’s not unfamiliar with skipper Bob Melvin. The two were teammates on the Giants’ 1987-88 roster and spent some time in Arizona together when Melvin took a coaching job there in the early 2000s.
While next year’s reunion will be fun to watch (unless, I suppose, you’re a Giants fan with a long memory), Williams may not have his sights set on a coaching role forever. As the San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea reported back in July, the 51-year-old knows what it feels like to win as a manager, and it’s a position he might be open to pursuing in the future.
“For me, my most comfortable space is in uniform,” he told Shea. “I’ve done the ownership thing and front-office stuff, and that’s fun. The most gratification I get is swinging a fungo and throwing batting practice and being on the field. It’s what you know and love. I look at myself as a teacher first and foremost. At the end of the day, I think that’s how I have my greatest influence.”