Thursday, November 1, 2007

Detroit Tigers Lose Joel Zumaya Until At Least Midway Through 2008 Season

Just days after the Detroit Tigers made a big step toward returning to the World Series trading for All Star shortstop Edgar Renteria the Tigers organization announced a significant setback Thursday as potential new closer Joel Zumaya underwent joint reconstructive surgery on his shoulder and is expected to miss at least the first half of the 2008 season. As my colleague Danny Knobler reported, Zumaya injured his shoulder helping his family move personal items as a result of the San Diego wildfires:

Zumaya was moving personal items after the wildfires that affected areas near his San Diego home, and suffered an injury that required AC joint reconstruction. The surgery was performed Wednesday, and was announced by the Tigers today.

The Tigers said that Zumaya will have to rest his shoulder for the next six weeks, and will begin a throwing program in approximately four months. That would be during spring training, and the Tigers say they're hopeful Zumaya would be ready to pitch sometime during the 2008 season.

This is just the latest in a series of freak injuries to the Tigers young phenom, who electrifies Comerica Park crowds by regularly topping 100 miles-per-hour on the radar gun. In the Tigers World series run in 2004, Zumaya famously (or infamously) missed time because of wrist inflammation allegedly caused by playing too much of the video game Guitar Hero. Then last season, Zumaya missed over half the season after dislocating a finger on his pitching hand. Now, he'll miss almost half the season after moving items due to the wildfires in San Diego.

This injury puts even more pressure on the Tigers to re-sign veteran closer Todd Jones, who may consider signing with his hometown Atlanta Braves rather then return to his beloved Tigers. Zumaya likely would have assumed the closers role in Jones' absence, but with Zumaya out, should Jones leave, the closing duties will fall to Fernando Rodney (unless, of course, the Tigers sign Mariano Rivera or former Tiger Francisco Cordero). The problem with moving Rodney to closer, though, is that with Zumaya out, the Tigers would be void of set-up men.

Re-signing Jones just became an immediate priority, and now that the need for a shortstop is taken care of, General Manager Dave Dombrowski will have to get to work rebuilding the Tigers bullpen, because without Zumaya, and potentially without Jones, no matter how many All Star offensive players the Tigers sign or trade for, they won't return to the post-season without solidifying their now very shaky bullpen.

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