The Detroit Tigers showed they’re willing to take at least one more chance on reliever Joel Zumaya, after tendering a contract offer to him for next season. If he recovers from his elbow injury and can stay healthy, the Tigers will have a fearsome bullpen.
But it’s all about that “if” with Zumaya. Can he avoid the type of devastating injury that has shortened his last four seasons?
Understandably, Zumaya has those same questions about himself. He’s fought injuries to his shoulder, finger and elbow over the past four years. And if he gets hurt again, it will be time to choose another career.
“This year’s going to be my make-it-or-break-it year,” Zumaya said. “If I get hurt again, I’m basically going to be done with baseball. I’m going to have to find another job.”
Zumaya says, however, that his arm feels good since surgery and he’s ready to throw. Doctors are expected to give him the go-ahead to begin a program after the holidays.
He’s been working out three days a week at the Tigers’ complex in Lakeland, Florida and should begin throwing after the new year. That would put him on track to be ready for Opening Day, barring any setbacks.
Zumaya might not have a defined role, in light of the Tigers signing Joaquin Benoit to be the primary set-up man. But even when he was at his most successful, Zumaya was more of a seventh-inning reliever behind Fernando Rodney or Brandon Lyon. Jim Leyland has preferred to use Zumaya in more of a floating role, bringing him in for key late-inning situations.