You could hear the chorus of uh-ohs coming from Tiger Town when Joel Zumaya was scratched from his simulated game/throwing session scheduled for Saturday. Even though Zumaya's ache was described as a cramp (or spasm) between his neck and right shoulder, any time something happens that prevents him from throwing, you can't help but raise your eyebrows, as Lee did.
And now, with Zumaya sitting down for a couple of days to rest and take anti-inflammatory meds, Jim Leyland finally acknowledged what had been looking like a steadily increasing possibility: Zumaya likely won't be ready for Opening Day.
"There's no BS here. I doubt very much whether he's going to be ready for Opening Day unless something happens in a hurry," manager Jim Leyland said. "That's just the way it is. I only say that because he really hasn't pitched for two years. If he had been pitching the last two years and then had a little setback like this, he might be able to get himself ready. But when a guy hasn't pitched for that long, let me put it this way: It's in the gray area now, unless something happens."
It would be easy to sit back and say "I knew it!" because for much of the offseason, it looked as if the Tigers should write off Zumaya for 2009. But as reports circulated that he was healthy and throwing, that familiar hope began to climb. And then Zumaya reported to Spring Training and was throwing free and easy. Could it be 2006 for the bullpen all over again? But then there's a tweak or an ache, and you remember just how precarious Glass Joel's health has been all along.
Perhaps the Tigers are just being cautious here, which is obviously the smart move. But Zumaya also hasn't thrown for two weeks, and Leyland is in the process of setting up his pitching rotation for the regular season. He has to go with the guys he knows will be ready. And right now, ol' Zoom ain't one of 'em.
If there's good news here, it's that Detroit might have one hell of a safety net in Ryan Perry. He was already pitching well enough to be considered for a spot on the major league roster, and if Zumaya can't go, there's a need for a strikeout guy in the bullpen. Leyland had been readying for this possibility, saying that he'd keep Perry in major league camp until Zumaya's health status was clear. So this really doesn't change anything.
As Kurt suggested yesterday, maybe Perry should start looking for a place to stay in Detroit.