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.