Zumaya to return this weekend
Tigers reliever ready to put injury woes behind him
ANAHEIM -- Two years after a freak bullpen injury at Kauffman Stadium started Joel Zumaya on his run of shaky health, the Tigers reliever will rejoin the club in Kansas City, where he'll be activated from the disabled list at some point this weekend."I'm not sure which day," said manager Jim Leyland, who could only specify that it probably wouldn't be for Friday's series opener against the Royals. Whenever Zumaya takes the mound, it'll be his first regular-season outing since Aug. 12, when he gave up two runs on two hits and three walks without retiring a batter. He was placed on the disabled list immediately after that and later diagnosed with a stress fracture in his surgically repaired throwing shoulder, effectively ending his season. The fracture didn't require any more surgery, but he wasn't cleared to throw until late December. He reported in early January to the Tigers' Spring Training complex in Lakeland, Fla., where he made impressive progress until his shoulder came up sore after a March 2 spring outing. A precautionary visit with Dr. James Andrews showed no structural damage, but Zumaya suffered a cramp in a muscle between his neck and throwing shoulder right after that, sidelining him another two weeks. Though the Tigers figured he'd be fine once he resumed throwing, he didn't have enough time left in camp to stretch out his arm into game shape, so he was left behind. Zumaya made five rehab outings for Class A Lakeland and Triple-A Toledo, battling his command in the first stop before throwing four scoreless innings with five strikeouts for the Mud Hens. His final test was to prove he could pitch on back-to-back days, which he did with a scoreless inning apiece Tuesday and Wednesday. He stuck out two batters in each of those outings. Once his shoulder felt fine Thursday morning, he was declared ready to go. "They say he's ready," Leyland said on Thursday afternoon. Leyland didn't specify a role yet for Zumaya, other than to say he'll be pitching from the sixth inning on. Once Zumaya gets going, however, he's expected to take a big late-inning role in a bullpen that has felt his absence at times despite Fernando Rodney's dominant start at closer.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.