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01/05/09 5:10 PM EST

Zumaya could begin throwing soon

Light-toss program might start in Florida within week

DETROIT -- Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya could begin throwing within a week as he continues to progress from the stress fracture in his shoulder that ended his 2008 season.

Zumaya, who was shut down from throwing in September but did not require surgery, was cleared in late December to expand his strengthening program to include overhead exercises with his arm and shoulder, according to head athletic trainer Kevin Rand.

Zumaya was examined in his hometown of San Diego by Dr. Heinz Hoenecke, one of the specialists who performed the reconstructive surgery on the AC joint in Zumaya's right shoulder in November 2007.

Barring a setback, Zumaya will travel to the Tigers' Spring Training facility in Lakeland, Fla., within a week or so to start his throwing program, beginning with light tossing.

Whether that puts Zumaya on track to be ready for Spring Training is premature, Rand said. Pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 14. Still, he considered it encouraging news.

"He's steadily gotten better," Rand said Monday. "He's gotten full, pain-free range of motion back and he was able to begin doing strengthening work."

The Tigers continue to try to strengthen their bullpen this offseason, one of the final steps to their winter work. Having a healthy Zumaya is not something team officials want to take for granted, but it would be a very encouraging step for him, especially if the 24-year-old right-hander can regain some of the power arsenal that made him one of baseball's nastiest setup men as a rookie in 2006 and again in parts of 2007.

Zumaya missed the first 2 1/2 months of last season while he worked back from the aforementioned shoulder surgery. He returned to strike out 22 batters over 23 1/3 innings from June 20-Aug. 12, but also yielded 24 hits and 22 walks. Much of that damage, however, came in his final seven outings from July 27 on, when he allowed six earned runs on eight hits and seven walks over seven innings.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.