I didn't even know Joel Zumaya was hurt. I left my house at the end of the 8th inning, the Detroit Tigers had just stormed back from another late inning deficit to take the lead over the Kansas City Royals. Headed to a bar to watch the Floyd Mayweather Oscar De La Hoya fight (as profiled below). I came home, and the first thing my dad asked me was "Hear about Joel Zumaya's injury?" Not so much. As Danny Knobler, my fellow MLive.com Tigers writer reported, it's not good.
Zumaya was warming up in the bullpen in the eighth inning tonight. Bullpen coach Jeff Jones said he shook his middle finger after throwing a breaking ball, but that he said he was fine. Then Zumaya threw a fastball.
``He looked at me and said, `I think I dislocated my finger,' '' Jones said. ``I've never seen that before. I've seen just about everything, but I've never seen that.''
Manager Jim Leyland says the injury could keep Zumaya out "months", but they want to get an MRI before any timetable is established. Either way, it'll be weeks before Zumaya starts throwing again, and for a Tigers bullpen which has been shaky already this season, to lose one of the game's most dominant set-up men, not just with his 101 MPH fastball but his knee-buckling 85 MPH breaking ball, is a huge blow, almost as big, if not larger, then the team's loss of starter Kenny Rogers.
The two men that will need to step up now are Fernando Rodney and veteran Jose Mesa. Rodney will become the 8th inning man for the Tigers, a role he is comfortable with and a role he can (and has in the past) excel at. Rodney struggled mightily at the start of the season, but he's looked good in recent appearances, and he'll have to continue to pitch well in Zumaya's absence. The biggest weight, though, will be on Jose Mesa's shoulders. Mesa was downright awful the first few weeks of the season, but after a stint on the Disabled List, hopefully he is fully healthy and able to contribute. Having a veteran presence in the 7th inning will help cushion the blow that Zumaya's loss brings, but if Mesa struggles, and the Tigers have to rely on Bobby Seay, Jason Grilli, and Aquilino Lopez, they are going to be in big trouble in the late innings.
Hoepfully, for Zumaya's sake, and the the Tigers', his injury is less serious then first feared, and that he'll be back sooner rather than later. A dislocated finger on one's pitching hand though could be a devastating injury, that takes longer to recover from then it sounds. Zumaya is a tough character and he'll bounce back, but he's going to need his bullpen mates to up their game in his absence, or it may be a long, and frustrating, summer for the Tigers relievers.