The Tigers were likely ecstatic when Joel Zumaya managed a quicker-than-expected return from shoulder reconstruction. A healthy Zumaya (and Fernando Rodney) was to revitalize a rickety bullpen and fill in the sizable reliability gap late in games. Except they didn’t.
Zumaya was cleared to play in late June and appeared in 21 games (23.1 IP).
It all came crashing down again on August 12 against Toronto at Comerica Park:
The Tigers had a two-run lead with two outs in the seventh inning with the middle of the Blue Jays order coming up. All five batters he faced reached base safely, fueling a four-run rally in a 6-4 Detroit loss and fueling the speculation that something is wrong with Zumaya.
“We’re very suspicious that he’s not right,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “I mean, enough’s enough. It’s not his fault. We’re just getting him checked out for precautionary measures.
“I know he’s not right. I don’t know if he’s hurt, but he’s definitely not right. I know that for a fact.”
A month after the disastrous appearance against the Blue Jays, Zumaya was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his right shoulder.
He finished his truncated season 0-2 with a 3.57 ERA. He allowed 24 hits, 22 walks, 22 strikeouts and 13 runs (nine of them earned). And he blew four of five save opportunities.
When the season started, the Tigers weren’t counting on Zumaya for much of a contribution. But Todd Jones began to show his age and the speedy recovery by Zumaya changed everything.
Or so it seemed.