Joel Zumaya has clearly been struggling for a while now. In six of his last eight outings, he's given up at least one run and issued one walk or more. During that span, his ERA has zoomed (ahem) upward from 1.65 to 3.47.
After last night's debacle, in which Zumaya failed to record an out while allowing two runs, two hits, and three walks (the fans were most certainly not saying "Zooooom!"), Jim Leyland said something was obviously wrong with his pitcher and he'd be examined by team doctors. Even if no physical damage was discovered, however, Zumaya would likely be shut down for a while because his confidence was weakening.
Leyland followed through on that promise this afternoon, as Zumaya was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a sore right shoulder. Francis Beltran was recalled from Triple-A Toledo to take his roster spot. In 36 appearances with the Mud Hens this season, Beltran has a 2-5 record and 4.81 ERA, with 36 strikeouts and 43 hits in 43 innings. He pitched five games with the Tigers earlier this season, compiling a 5.79 ERA in just 4 2/3 innings.
It seems painfully obvious now that far too much was expected of Zumaya so soon after undergoing reconstructive shoulder surgery. Maybe he was written off initially, through Spring Training and the first third of the season, but once it became apparent that Zumaya was recovering nicely and progressing strongly through his rehabilitation, the hopes and expectations of a season on the brink was largely placed on his ailing shoulder. The Tigers needed an elite bullpen to contend, as they had in 2006, and Zumaya had to be a big part of that.
But how many pitchers bounce back from that kind of surgery to pitch well? Zumaya battled injuries throughout the season trying to get back to where he once was (leading jerky, insensitive bloggers to tag him with nicknames like "Glass Joel"), which was pushing himself further than he could really go. Maybe we'll see him pitch again in September, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if last night was the last time we saw Zumaya pitch in 2008.