Zumaya placed on 15-day DL
Reliever's stint backdated so Tigers can activate him April 11
LAKELAND, Fla. -- The good news for Joel Zumaya is that his right shoulder and his mind-set were fine after his inning of work in an intersquad game Saturday. That probably won't make him feel that much better when the Tigers head north without him.
While the Tigers began packing up their belongings for the moving truck that will head back to Detroit, Zumaya was coming to grips with the fact that he'll be here for a little longer. His delayed start to the season became official when the Tigers placed him on the 15-day disabled list Sunday morning.
"It's a tough day," Zumaya said. "They're packing everything up. My stuff's not packed up. It really stinks. [But] I don't want to go up there, pitch a couple innings and then [realize] my shoulder's achy. Right now, it's tough, man."
He's hoping it'll get better soon. The Tigers backdated the move two days to Friday, which would allow the Tigers to activate him as soon as April 11, the first Saturday of the season. They aren't counting on him for return that quickly, and they've made a point not to rush the hard-throwing reliever.
Still, there's a hope, if not a goal, from Zumaya to not miss much more than the minimum stay.
"It's not going to take more than a week or two," Zumaya said.
In fact, Zumaya said, he could pitch today if he wanted. Still, in the same conversation, he said, "I'm not going to say that I'm close."
The Tigers lost another reliever Sunday, when they returned Rule 5 Draft pick Kyle Bloom to the Pirates. Detroit president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said that he tried to work out a trade to keep Bloom in the organization and send him to the Minors, but the clubs couldn't agree on a return package.
The Rule 5 Draft allows a team to select a Minor League player from another organization who isn't on a 40-man roster after a certain amount of pro experience -- four years for most players drafted out of college, five years for those out of high school -- for $50,000. However, the team that drafts the player must either keep him for a full season or offer him back to his previous team for $25,000.
With Zumaya out, Bloom gone and Jeremy Bonderman expected to head to the DL shortly after a struggling start Sunday against the Braves, the Tigers might have made the jump from having too much pitching to having too little. Manager Jim Leyland predicted around the start of camp that they would probably have one or the other.
As it is, the Tigers are believed to be watching the market for spare arms, potentially using their position player candidates as bait. They briefly held trade discussions with the Mets for reliever Brian Stokes, according to the Detroit Free Press. Outfielder Marcus Thames is also on the market; he was expected to play in a Minor League game Sunday, but ended up playing designated hitter against the Braves instead.
Thames and fellow outfielder Brent Clevlen are both out of Minor League options, giving the Tigers a vested interest in shopping them if they don't make the team.
"We're talking with clubs about a lot of things," Dombrowski said.
Zumaya last pitched in a game of any sort on March 2, when he pitched a scoreless inning with a strikeout against Florida Southern College. His shoulder was sore the next day, and it was enough of a concern that he was sent to noted specialist Dr. James Andrews for an exam, which turned up no structural damage. After that, a cramp in Zumaya's trapezial muscle between his right shoulder and neck halted his throwing program for another couple weeks.
Those issues have reinforced the point that Leyland has made throughout camp.
"When I get him, I want him for good," Leyland said Thursday. "And I don't care how long it takes."
Leyland talked with Zumaya on Saturday to explain their thinking behind the move. And Zumaya largely seems to be on board.
"He doesn't want to see me lose my career because of some stupidity," Zumaya said of Leyland.
Zumaya said Sunday morning his shoulder felt good afer throwing 95-97 mph Saturday, which the Tigers wanted to hear before determining his next step. Because Zumaya went on the disabled list, he cannot pitch in any more regular Spring Training games, but he can pitch in simulated and intrasquad games.
Zumaya already spent most of the past two seasons on the DL. He was out until June last year while recovering from surgery to repair the AC joint in his right shoulder. He then missed the final six weeks of the season with a stress fracture in the same shoulder.
He had been progressing back surprisingly well since starting his throwing program in January. The setback early this month put him on a track that has now left him behind schedule to be ready for the start of the season.
"If you want to rush it, he might be able to ready," Dombrowski said. "But this is not something you want to rush."
The Tigers want to wait until Zumaya can pitch on consecutive days without discomfort.
"I'm shooting for, with my strength, pitching three straight days," Zumaya said. "I know I can do that. It's just a matter of getting my strength."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.