Joel Zumaya has the kind of stuff and the sort of personality that inspires many nicknames. Some call him "Zoom." Others call him "Zoom-Zoom." (And maybe all they wanna do is "Boom-Boom.") "Guitar Hero." "Guitar Zero." "Voodoo Child." Etc., etc. It's all about that blazing fastball and rock star persona.
But I'm beginning to think Zumaya might deserve another nickname, one more appropriate to the precarious status of his health, the fragile nature of his arm. As a pitcher who increasingly seems to be the opposite of unbreakable, I'm wondering if we should start calling him "Mr. Glass."
Since experiencing tightness in his right triceps last Sunday, Zumaya has pitched in two games for the Tigers, and wasn't impressive in either outing. Jim Leyland brought him in for key situations, hoping he could strike out some batters and shut down any big innings, but instead Zumaya left the field smelling of gasoline. In those three innings, Zumaya struck out four batters, but also allowed two runs, three hits, and most frustratingly, two walks. Over his last six outings, Zumaya has allowed five runs, along with seven hits and six walks, in addition to his 10 strikeouts.
As is so often the case, the problem might be attributable to injury. After Friday night's game, Zumaya told the Tigers' training staff that he was again feeling soreness in his throwing arm, this time "a little higher" than his triceps area. Leyland suspected something was wrong when he noticed a problem with Zumaya's mechanics.
"It seems like he gets to a certain point and doesn't finish the pitch," Leyland said. "Not on all pitches, but on some fastballs."
Last week, the discomfort seemed to pop up when Zumaya threw curveballs. On Friday, however, the tightness occurred on fastballs. As a result, Zumaya won't pitch until Tuesday at the earliest. (The Tigers have an off-day on Monday.) Team doctors didn't discover any serious problems when examining him on Friday, so the hope is that rest will take care of the problem.
Maybe too much was expected of Zumaya just nine months after reconstructive shoulder surgery, and this sort of fatigue and discomfort was bound to occur. As with other pitchers who have had procedures on their shoulders or elbows, perhaps Zumaya won't truly bounce back to full health until next year, after he's built his arm strength back up again. Of course, this might also lend further fuel to the argument that Zumaya might be better off as a starting pitcher, pacing himself over a longer outing, rather than trying to throw the hell out of the ball in a short stint.