Friday, January 13, 2012

Zoom-Zooming Out of Motown

Last we saw Joel Zumaya on a big league diamond, he was throwing out a ceremonial first pitch at Comerica Park. He acknowledged the big cheers, and for the briefest of moments, it was 2006 all over again.

But the more resonating image of Zumaya, the fireballing reliever, was of him writhing on the ground in Minnesota in the summer of 2010, his elbow broken after delivering one of his violent pitches.

Who could forget it, if you were watching on television?

The tears of pain, the twitching of his fingers as Zumaya clutched his right elbow, apparently even having trouble breathing.

I know I'll never forget it.

Zumaya's dramatic end to his 2010 season was not unlike that of Dave Dravecky, whose left arm snapped and was left dangling after a pitch in 1989. Dravecky's arm was eventually amputated.

Dravecky's situation was cancer-related, but the image was still the same: pitcher throws baseball, pitcher is suddenly rolling around on the ground in massive pain.

Now it appears that Zumaya has thrown his last pitch---as a Tiger.

Looks like the Tigers aren't interested in bringing Zumaya, a free agent, back into the fold---even after a showcase in front of MLB teams in Houston appeared to go well for the 27-year-old.

Tom Gage of the Detroit News wrote that Zumaya could end up signing with his hometown San Diego Padres.

Fine by me, if the Tigers won't bite, because the last thing Tigers fans want to see is Zumaya in the American League, haunting them.

The comparisons have been made to Mark Fidrych, and there's some of that, for sure.

Both were 21 year-old rookies when they took the baseball world by storm. Both had magical seasons, which were exactly 30 years apart. Both then fell victim to injuries (each had fluke ones) and had difficulty recapturing their prior glory. And both, of course, pitched for the Tigers.

But the book on Fidrych has long ago been closed. Zumaya still has time to distance himself from The Bird.

It's just not likely to happen as a Tiger.

The Tigers have their late inning bullpen all set, at least on paper.

They signed Octavio Dotel, a veteran of 13 MLB teams, to handle the seventh inning. Joaquin Benoit handles the eighth inning. And Jose Valverde closes things.

There's Phil Coke and Daniel Schlereth for left-handed variety. And don't forget righty Al Alburquerque, he of the wicked slider, but who is battling arm troubles of his own.

There simply isn't room for an arm with a checkered past, i.e. Zumaya.

I wish Joel Zumaya well, obviously. I'm sure the rest of Tigers Nation is with me, even if it looks like his career will resume with another team---if it resumes at all.

There's still time for him to silence the Mark Fidrych talk.

I hope he does.


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