Joel Zumaya is back from his latest injury and still lighting up radar guns

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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.

Must-Click Link: Remembering Eddie Grant the first major leaguer to die in combat

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As you get ready for Memorial Day weekend and whatever it entails for you and yours, take some time to read an excellent article from Mike Bates over at The Hardball Times.

The article is about Eddie Grant. You probably never heard of him. He was a journeyman infielder — often a backup — from 1905 through 1915. If you have heard of him, it was likely not for his baseball exploits, however: it was because he was the first active baseball player to die in combat, killed in the Battle of the Argonne Forest in October 1915.

Michael tells us about more than Grant’s death, however. He provides a great overview of his life and career. And notes that Grant didn’t even have to go to war if he didn’t want to. He was 34, had the chance to coach or manage and had a law degree and the potential to make a lot of money following his baseball career. He volunteered, however, for both patriotic and personal reasons. And it cost him his life.

Must-read stuff indeed. Especially this weekend.

The Indians are unveiling a Frank Robinson statue on Sunday

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The Cleveland Indians will unveil a Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field on Saturday.

Robinson’s tenure in Cleveland was not long, but it was historic. On April 8, 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He was a player-manager. One of the last ones, in fact. He spent two years in that role and then a third year — a partial year anyway — as a manager only. Robinson would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles and the Expos/Nationals, compiling a career record of 1065-1176 in 16 seasons. He is now a top MLB executive.

Robinson was, of course, a Hall of Fame player as well, lodging 21 seasons for the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He won two MVP awards and hit for the Triple Crown in 1966. Overall he hit 586 home runs – 10th all time – and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. For an inner-circle Hall of Famer with that kind of resume he is still, strangely enough, underrated. I guess that happens when your contemporaries are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.

Anyway, congrats to Frank Robinson for yet another well-deserved honor in a career full of them.