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 SEATTLE (AP) -Joel Zumaya was so excited to begin throwing for the first time in more than two months, he slept with his glove the night before.
``Feels good, man,'' the Detroit Tigers' setup reliever said Thursday, before heading out to the field to play catch with fellow injured reliever Fernando Rodney.
The two hard throwers threw from a distance of 20 feet for about 10 minutes before the Tigers began the season's second half against the Seattle Mariners. It's the first step on what the AL Central leaders hope is a dual path back to the bullpen by Sept. 1.
``I'm excited,'' manager Jim Leyland said. ``But am I going to watch like a little kid while they throw about 20 feet apart? No.''
Zumaya has been on the DL since May 3 after dislocating a tendon in the middle finger of his right, pitching hand. Rodney, who took over the setup job when Zumaya went down, joined him on the DL June 26 with tendinitis in his right shoulder.
Detroit expects Rodney, who also was on the DL from May 21 to June 5 with biceps tendinitis, to be back before Zumaya. But Leyland said Rodney will have to complete a minor league rehab assignment of unknown length first.
Still, Leyland is eager to get both back.
``You know, you just don't find these guys standing around at the bus stop,'' Leyland said.
Zumaya said the ball felt good in his hand as he gripped one in the clubhouse Thursday, but added he won't know how well the tendon is healing until he tries to flex the finger while snapping off harder pitches. That will come later.
``If it feels good (Thursday), I am going to go 110 percent toward getting back,'' Zumaya said.
The progress of the relievers will dictate how aggressively the Tigers pursue a pitcher before the July 31 deadline for trading without waivers.
``The focus will be on our bullpen, which has been better recently,'' general manager Dave Dombrowski said Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press. ``We've made some minor changes to make us a little better, but the key will be the health of Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya. We need either one of them, or both ideally, to come back to fill the eighth-inning role before Todd Jones.
``When the trading deadline comes at the end of the month, how they're feeling will factor into what we do.''

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