Just 13 pitches into his latest comeback attempt with the Minnesota Twins, former Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya has torn his UCL that may require Tommy John surgery if he hopes to continue his baseball career.
Twins RP Joel Zumaya lasted 13 pitches. MRI confirms torn UCL, heading to Andrews for consult, likely Tommy John surgery. #twins— Will Carroll (@injuryexpert) February 26, 2012
For Tiger fans, this news is unsurprising, given Zumaya's history of arm-related health issues during his tenure with Detroit, but still very sad nonetheless. 'Zoom-zoom' holds a special place in the hearts and memories of Tigers fans who remember his triple-digit fastball and his nasty twelve-six curve ball that baffled and blew away some of the best hitters in the American League. Most notably, Zumaya was a key part of the bullpen that nailed down victories during the Tigers' return to glory during the 2006 campaign.
Zumaya's injury problems with the Tigers began during the 2006 campaign, as he was unable to pitch during the American League Championship Series against the Oakland A's. In every season since that magical year, Zumaya has spent time on the disabled list. He lasted the longest in 2010, making 31 appearances for 38 1/3 innings, but was unable to make a major league appearance in 2011.
If Zumaya does indeed opt to have Tommy John surgery, two things become clear. First is that he will not be pitching in games for twelve to 18 months. Second is that he is attempting yet another comeback. It's too early to tell, either way, but a visit to Dr. James Andrews usually does mean that reconstructive surgery on his elbow will be required.Zumaya pitched in parts of five seasons with the Tigers, from his rookie campaign in 2006 through a partial season in 2010. As a rookie, he made 62 appearances, posting a 1.94 ERA, a 1.17 WHIP, and striking out 10.9 batters per nine innings of work. Those numbers would never again be replicated, as he spent significant time on the DL in each of the next five seasons, making just 21 to 31 appearances per year, and missing the entire 2011 campaign after the Tigers agreed to pay him a salary of $ 1.4 million for the year.
2010 was the most promising season after Zumaya's rookie year, when he made 31 appearances, posting an ERA of 2.58 with eleven holds, but his season was done by the end of June. In a game at Minnesota, Zumaya fell to the ground clutching his elbow. He did not pitch again for the Tigers after that.
When he became a free agent after the 2011 season, Zumaya was looking to pitch for any club that would give him a major league contract. He held throwing sessions arranged by his agent, where several clubs were in attendance, but not the Tigers.
Zumaya signed a major league contract with the Minnesota Twins, who agreed to pay him a base salary of $850,000, although only $400,000 of that is guaranteed should they decide to release him before the season due to injury. The Twins' bullpen has been decimated by the loss of pitchers to free agency, so they rolled the dice that the pitcher who held their hitters to a .184 batting average, might return to form. It wasn't meant to be.
So much promise, so much disappointment.