Injured reliever Joel Zumaya inching back toward Detroit Tigers mound Print
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Sunday, 24 February 2008 11:42
MLB Headline News

 LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) -Detroit Tigers pitcher Joel Zumaya is determined to overcome his greatest nemesis: himself.
For the second consecutive year, the hard-throwing reliever will miss a significant portion of the season in the wake of a bizarre injury.
``Hopefully, I'm not made out of glass,'' Zumaya said. ``I'm not hurting myself. It's just some stupid stuff happened. You know, freak stuff.''
With wildfires threatening his home in Chula Vista, Calif., last fall, Zumaya was hurriedly removing treasured items from the attic. Unaware he was holding two boxes above his head at once, the top one slid off and slammed into his pitching shoulder.
Zumaya underwent joint reconstruction surgery Oct. 31 and likely won't return to the Detroit mound before midseason. There was a time he gladly would have settled for that.
``Everybody, when they come across an injury, starts to think the worst,'' the right-hander said. ``I couldn't think any positive stuff at that moment. It wasn't a good feeling.''
And now?
``Right now it feels fine,'' he said before another rehabilitation session pulled him apart from his teammates at spring training. ``I should start throwing here in a couple of weeks.''
As a rookie in 2006, Zumaya missed three games of the American League Championship Series with inflammation in his right wrist and forearm. The Detroit Free Press reported the injury stemmed from his simulation of an electric guitar player during a video game, and that setting aside his instrument enabled him to return for the World Series.
Early last May, however, Zumaya underwent surgery to repair a ruptured tendon in his right middle finger that landed him on the disabled list for nearly four months.
``I can't explain how the heck that happened,'' he said.
It hurt Zumaya more when people again began pointing fingers at his stage antics.
``I think that's ridiculous,'' he said. ``It's impossible to get hurt from a plastic guitar like that, especially the way I play.''
The Tigers are hopeful Zumaya will regain the form that earned him the nickname ``Zoom'' for his ability to deliver baseballs in excess of 100 mph. The 23-year-old realizes that is not a certainty.
``If I come back throwing 85, hey, that's what I'll be throwing. I'll just have to learn to pitch a little bit more,'' he said. ``But right now, we're shooting forward. I have no doubts that I will have my velocity back.''
All-Star Ivan Rodriguez said he's eager for Zumaya to resume popping Rodriguez's catcher's mitt in Detroit, but not a moment too soon.
``We need him for sure, but at the same time we need him back healthy,'' Rodriguez said. ``He needs to be healthy first before he throws a pitch.''
Pitching coach Chuck Hernandez agreed.
``He has a chance to be a great pitcher. More importantly, I want him to get back for his own career,'' Hernandez said. ``When you see a young man with that kind of talent, you want to give him a chance to see what he can do with that.''
Notes: Manager Jim Leyland is not prepared to announce his starting pitcher for opening day, but he did reveal his rotation for the first six spring games. In a different twist, closer Todd Jones will lead a succession of seven right-handers into Tuesday's opener against Florida Southern College. ... RHP Jeremy Bonderman will start against the Mets on Wednesday, LHP Nate Robertson and RHP Justin Verlander will face the Blue Jays on Thursday and Friday, and LHPs Dontrelle Willis and Kenny Rogers oppose the Indians on Saturday and Sunday.
 

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