February 11th, 2009

Early read on Zumaya: Very upbeat, quietly confident

As I mentioned earlier, Joel Zumaya is in camp, has been here for about a month. And as you probably read already, he’s throwing off of a mound and feeling good after the stress fracture in his shoulder was diagnosed late last season. Talking with him Wednesday, you can definitely sense the positive tone in his mood. He’s very upbeat, says his shoulder has felt as if nothing had happened when he lets it go.

At the same time, he’s buying into the system that the Tigers have planned for him, because he wants to show he’s ready for a job out of spring training — not just a job, but the closer’s job. He wants to be part of a three-team competition this spring for closing duties. So when pitching coach Rick Knapp talks about having him bring his throwing motion under control, taking a little bit off of his fastball and getting the benefit of command, he’s for it. He’s also putting more work into his changeup as a big part of his arsenal. We’ll see how it works out and what it means for him, but Zumaya seems to have grown out of his 100-mph-all-the-time approach and is responding well to his new coach. Look for more on the site later this afternoon.

Zumaya, by the way, looks in very good shape after not being allowed to throw until later in the offseason. For that matter, count Dontrelle Willis in the group of guys you can tell put in hard workouts this winter. His agent, Matt Sosnick, had mentioned it as far back as early November, but it’s apparent that he has lost some weight and gained some muscle.

First day in Lakeland

Pitchers and catchers aren’t scheduled to report until Friday, but if you take away the calendar, you would figure that date was here already by the numbers of players already working out at the complex. The entire starting rotation is here, including all the fifth starter candidates. That includes Rick Porcello, who has been here since just after TigerFest. A few relievers are also here, including Joel Zumaya (as we already knew), Kyle Bloom, Clay Rapada, Macay McBride and Zach Simons to name a few seen today.

The position players are starting to roll in over the last few days, including Curtis Granderson, Marcus Thames, Michael Hollimon, Clete Thomas and Ryan Raburn (who commutes here from his Tampa area home for workouts). With each year, it stands out to me how more and more players make the trip early and get to work. Some of them are working back from injuries, so it helps them to do it here with team medical staff around. Others just get bored of their offseason workouts and want to get on a field as soon as they can.

Being here for a day, you can understand the rush for some. No question, 80 degrees is very warm, but it’s really comfortable after all those days of winter weather in Michigan.