Joel Zumaya cleared to begin throwing program

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Tom Gage of the Detroit News brings us some good news about Tigers setup man Joel Zumaya.

Dr. James Andrews took a look at Zumaya’s ailing right elbow on Wednesday afternoon and found nothing structurally out of place, so the Tigers cleared him to begin a throwing program.

Zumaya will start with games of catch, then he’ll move on to bullpen sessions. He’ll finish up with a simulated game and a minor league rehab appearance or two. It’s a rehab schedule that should take around two weeks to complete.

“The scan showed good range of motion, good strength, and Joel has been allowed to begin a light-toss program,” Tigers trainer Kevin Rand said Thursday. “He’ll throw at 60 feet for the next 5-6 days, then report back to Dr. Andrews about how he feels. We’ll just have to see how it goes in the next week.”

The Tigers were hoping — and still are hoping — to use Zumaya as a seventh inning mainstay this season behind eighth inning setup man Ryan Perry and ninth inning closer Jose Valverde.

Blue Jays release John Axford

John Axford
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The Blue Jays have released right-handed reliever John Axford from his minor league contract, per an announcement on Saturday. Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi speculates that the move could provide an avenue for the club to rework Axford’s contract, but the Blue Jays have yet to confirm or deny the report.

Axford, 35, was dealt a blow on Thursday after getting diagnosed with a stress reaction in the olecranon bone of his right elbow. Elbow soreness dogged the right-hander through much of his time in camp, and although he was scheduled for a follow-up examination later this spring, a definite return date had not been established.

Prior to the diagnosis, Axford was tabbed for a setup role with the team in 2019. He pitched to mixed results in 2018 (thanks in part to a late-season fracture of his right fibula) with a 5.27 ERA, 4.9 BB/9, and 9.8 SO/9 through 54 2/3 innings with the Blue Jays and Dodgers. Now, however, it’s not certain that he’ll return to the mound this season in any capacity.

Axford isn’t the only reliever the Blue Jays have lost to injury lately, either, as right-handers Ryan Tepera and Bud Norris have been sidelined with right elbow inflammation and forearm fatigue, respectively. Per Davidi, the Blue Jays offered Norris a $100,000 retention bonus to prevent him from opting out of the minor league contract he signed in February.