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Joel Zumaya an X-factor: Leyland

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Joel Zumaya clutches his elbow after falling to the ground in the eighth inning against the Minnesota Twins during their game on June 28.
Joel Zumaya clutches his elbow after falling to the ground in the eighth inning against the Minnesota Twins during their game on June 28.

Pitching prospect Jacob Turner wasn't the only topic of discussion for Larry Lage, Art Regener and Tigers manager Jim Leyland during a recent interview with WDFN.

As recorded by our new sister site Sports Radio Interviews, Leyland called relief pitcher Joel Zumaya an X-factor, but said Zumaya will have to be able to pitch to remain with the team.

If we get him back healthy then all of the sudden you have (Ryan) Perry, Zumaya, Benoit, and Valverde, that’s a lot of firepower coming out of the bullpen. We think he’s going to be a part of our ballclub. Are we counting on it 100 percent? No because you always have reservations with injuries and stuff.

*snip*

You have to pitch if you’re going to be on the team. Zumaya, he is an X factor. I don’t know what to expect right now. He’s fine, he’s healthy, he’s rehabbed, he’s as strong as a bull, but like I said our problem is not been the offseason having him healthy. The problem is the season so we’ll just have to wait and see how that plays out.

It appears from their actions this offseason the Tigers are not counting on Zumaya surviving the season healthy, either. You can look at this bullpen with the addition of Joquin Benoit and actually find so many good righthanded pitchers you don't know where to put them all. That's a good problem to have.

Ryan Perry was once thought of as a future closer, but many days he'll probably find himself pitching in the sixth or seventh inning. This is a player who showed a lot of improvement from his rookie season in 2009 to the end of his 2010 year.

Zumaya, too, looks like he'll pitch in the sixth or seventh inning, although he could pair up with Joquin Benoit in the eighth to keep the workload of both injury risks down a bit.

And then you've got Robbie Weinhardt and others waiting in the wings. Weinhardt's rookie campaign may not have been pretty, but he has all the tools he needs to be a successful reliever and should find better results over the course of an entire season.

So yeah, the Tigers have relievers. Righthanders anyway. You just have to wonder if they'd benefit from finding another veteran lefthander on a one-year deal.

Other tidbits from the interview include Leyland's current thoughts:

On the lineup:

I’m thinking right now obviously Magglio third, Cabrera fourth, and Martinez fifth. Not to mention (Brandon) Inge and (Jhonny) Peralta down more towards the bottom, but solid RBI guys.

On the topsy-turvy season of Brennan Boesch:

We put a lot of pressure on Boesch last year. I think that caught up with him a bit and that’s the youth.

On how long he plans to manage:

I came to Detroit for one reason and that’s to hand Mr. Ilitch that trophy. That’s what I went there for, that’s what I want to do, and we will see if we can get it done. We came close in 2006, but we didn’t quite make it. As long as I’m enjoying what I’m doing then I’d like to continue.