TWINS: Reliever Zumaya, re-injured and out for year, leaning toward retirement
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Joel Zumaya knew as soon as it happened. His season, and maybe his career, was over. "Like everybody says, man, it takes one pitch," he said. While throwing to live batters Saturday at the Lee Country Sports Complex, Zumaya fe...
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Joel Zumaya knew as soon as it happened. His season, and maybe his career, was over.
"Like everybody says, man, it takes one pitch," he said.
While throwing to live batters Saturday at the Lee Country Sports Complex, Zumaya felt a "bite" in his elbow. After a career full of injuries, including a fractured elbow that has kept him out of the big leagues since June 28, 2010, he knew it wasn't good.
Now, officially facing reconstructive elbow ligament surgery, he's questioning whether it's worth trying to play baseball anymore.
"That's going to be a family decision," he said. "Right now perspective is probably not."
Zumaya, 27, was throwing off the mound with batters in the box for the first time this spring when he tore the unlar collateral ligament in his right elbow, a new injury for a pitcher who already has had surgeries to repair his elbow, shoulder and a finger. After trying to make a comeback last season with the Tigers, his second attempt -- this time with the Minnesota Twins -- has been thwarted, as well.
And it had all been going so well.
"I was feeling fine. I was throwing quite hard, so the way things were going -- my side sessions, getting to face batters -- was just leaning toward doing fantastic," he said. "So it took one pitch; it was one pitch. It bit pretty hard and I continued trying to throw and you could just tell, I lost velocity, I was trying to get it over the plate."
Elbow reconstruction surgery, more commonly known as "Tommy John" surgery, has a remarkable success rate. Still, after so many arm problems, Zumaya said he's contemplating professional fishing as his next step.
"I know I'm young, but I'm going to probably be going on six surgeries if I get another one," he said. "I'm only 27 years old and I've taken a lot of wear and tear on my body, especially my arm, and then rehab -- it's a lot out of you. So I have a little 2-and-ahalf-year-old; maybe it's time to move on."
The Twins signed Zumaya after he threw for roughly 50 scouts last December, and they put him through a complete physical that included an MRI of his elbow. Minnesota owes him $400,000 on a one-year deal that would have been worth $1.7 million had he been able to throw 60 innings, something he hasn't come close to since throwing 83.1 -- and fanning 97 -- as a rookie in 2006.
But Zumaya throws hard, consistently clocked at more than 100 mph when he was healthy, and it seems clear his arm just can't take it.
"People that throw as hard as me, you're injury-prone," he said. "It's hard, man. I guess you're not meant to throw a baseball as hard as I do."
General manager Terry Ryan said Zumaya is still a member of the Twins and will be until Zumaya officially decides whether or not to have surgery. That decision, the pitcher said, should come within the next 24 to 48 hours. If Zumaya chooses surgery, Ryan said he could rehab under the auspices of the Twins, or return to his home in Orlando, Fla., and do it on his own.
"I'll have decisions to make as we move forward," Ryan said, "but right now he's still on the 40-man roster."
Distributed by MCT Information Services