This is the bullpen help we’ve been waiting for?
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.
ESPN.com’s trip through each MLB team’s roster continued today with write Jonah Keri‘s lens focused on the American League Central and the Tigers.
If you’re looking for a positive outlook to end your week, look elsewhere. Here’s a taste:
Aside from a younger, more athletic band of glove men, the Tigers need about a half-dozen new pitchers. Verlander and Galarraga figure to anchor a rotation that’s woefully shorthanded, with lefties Dontrelle Willis, Kenny Rogers and Nate Robertson turning into pumpkins and Jeremy Bonderman now more of a perennial injury risk than a future frontline starter. The bullpen is no better, with Todd Jones retired, Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney fighting to regain their lost command, and journeyman Aquilino Lopez the best of the 2008 bunch.
Now that hurts.
Every time I sat down to write about a bit of Tigers news in the past five days, another shoe would drop and I’d think “I’ll write about both of those items.” Then another and another, etc.
So, as I wait out this Tigers/White Sox rain delay from bright, sunny Phoenix, it’s time to weigh in on:
- Todd Jones’s Retirement. The decades-old joke in Detroit is that the most popular person in the city is the Lions’ backup QB and/or the Red Wings’ backup netminder. I think we can now add the Tigers’ setup man to that punch line. Detroit is unusually cruel to its closers. Less than a year after Willie Hernandez won the 1984 Cy Young and MVP awards, he started getting booed and it’s never stopped. Mike Henneman did too, but to a much smaller degree. The Tigers were so unwatchable during Todd Jones‘s first tour of duty in Detroit, that often he was the only bright spot. Come to think of it, he was a welcome sight then because it mean the Tigers were in line for a rare win.
But what was it about Jones in his second stint as a Tiger? What made it so infuriating? Sure, he got 93 saves in just under three seasons but his ERA was always around four and … ah, what’s the use? Jones is a good guy and I’m sure he’ll be missed by his teammates. I guess. For me, though, I’ll never be able to forgive him for not being Joe Nathan.
The Score: Tigers 8 – Rangers 7
The Gist: Gary Sheffield hit his 493rd career jack and went 3 for 5, and Curtis Granderson drove in four as the Tigers escaped with an 8-7 win in Arlington. Kenny Rogers eeked out a win thanks to two four-run outbursts by his teammates in the seventh and eighth. (And Rogers struck out seven in his six innings…usually a sign of impending doom. But not on Monday.) Kyle Farnsworth, a model of consistently sub-optimal pitching since his return to Detroit, made it too interesting in the eighth but Fernando Rodney pitched not awfully and sealed the deal.
The Quote: “[I]t would be the biggest mistake of his life if he goes on the mound hoping to show the Rangers something. That’s high school [stuff].” — Jim Leyland on Tuesday’s starter and former Rangers farmhand Armando Galarraga.
The Stat: 12. The number of errors by Edgar Renteria so far this season. He leads all A.L. Central shortstops in flubs — but not by much. Orlando Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta each have 11. The Twins’ trio of Adam Everett, Nick Punto and Brendan Harris average about six. KC’s Tony Pena (8) and Mike Aviles (6) roundout the Central.
Up Next: Tigers @ Rangers
Armando Galarraga (11-4, 3.11) vs. Vincente Padilla (12-6, 4.85)
Watching ESPN’s report about the Pudge trade to the Yankees. Peter Gammons says:
- The Tigers-Pudge relationship “had run its course.”
- Jim Leyland told him that the Tigers can’t run Zumaya and Rodney out there every night and the team needed bullpen depth.
- The Tigers believe Brandon Inge is ready to take over behind the plate.
- “On that stage in New York” Pudge will be inspired to play great.
When you think about it, the fact that Pudge has remained in Detroit this long is astounding. So unhappy was he during the Alan Trammell Era (especially 2005), most wouldn’t have been shocked at a trade back then.
The Score: Tigers 8 – Indians 5
The Gist: Armando Galarraga is to the Indians as Paul Byrd is to the Tigers. Well, not quite, but Galarraga beat the Tribe for the third time this year, Tigers hitters were spared batting practice and turned it on, you know, during a game. But back to Galarraga: three runs over 5.1 innings to earn his ninth win of the year — more than Justin Verlander, folks. (For now.) Brandon Inge stroked three hits including a two-run homer and a double. Miguel Cabrera also went yard as he, Placido Polanco, Carlos Guillen and Matt Joyce collected two hits apiece.
The Quote: “We keep winning, we can come in at 6:15 every night for all I care. The guys liked it, so we’ll have a little fun with it and keep them fresh at the same time.” — Jim Leyland on the Tigers skipping BP on Tuesday night.
The Stat: 20. The combined number of balls thrown by Freddy Dolsi and Fernando Rodney — out of a total of 36. Both threw 18 pitches, eight of them strikes. Sigh.
Up Next: Tigers @ Indians
Nate Robertson (6-8, 5.63) vs. Cliff Lee (14-2, 2.29)