February 15th, 2009

Sunday roundup: Zumaya looks good

The second day of spring training workouts was the first round of formal bullpen sessions for another group of Tigers pitchers. Among them was the much-anticipated Joel Zumaya, who by all accounts looked good as he fired away with one pitch after another.

“Right now, he looks great,” manager Jim Leyland said. “Keep your fingers crossed.”

Leyland is trying not to make too much of early throwing sessions. And to be fair, it’s the fifth session off of a mound for Zumaya, who has been in Lakeland for more than a month. Still, Leyland was pointed in how positive he felt about Zumaya putting on some weight again after reporting noticeably lighter to last year’s camp.

“He’s not used to being a skinny guy,” Leyland said. “He looked like how Joel Zumaya’s supposed to look, to me.”

Zumaya was part of a trio of hard throwers working next to each other. Justin Verlander and Edwin Jackson filled out the group. All of them looked impressive, and you could tell Verlander had some intensity going as he fired pitches.

Sunday was also the first throwing session for Fu-Te Ni, who was pitching to French Canadian Max St. Pierre. After the session, St. Pierre was trying to express some pointers to Ni through his translator. Eventually, St. Pierre resorted to trying to demonstrate it, squatting and putting his hands on the ground to make the point to throw a certain pitch lower.

Macay McBride also looked good. He pitched only one regular-season inning last year before undergoing Tommy John surgery, but he looks healthy now.

Other notes …

  • Leyland threw out much of any chance the Tigers will have more than one closer when the season begins. “I think we’ll have a closer,” he said, “and I think we’ll have one or two guys capable of closing a game.” Presumably, that one or two depends on Zumaya’s status.
  • Leyland compared Armando Galarraga to former Tigers starter Dave Rozema as an example of a guy who comes out of nowhere to have a stellar season. Rozema won 15 games as a rookie in 1977. Unfortunately, Rozema never won double-digit games in a season again. Leyland doesn’t think that’ll happen to Galarraga, but he also doesn’t want Galarraga to put pressure on himself to win a bunch more games and eclipse last year. Look for more on Galarraga on the site later today.
  • Expect Leyland to have a word with Fernando Rodney about his alligator tooth necklace, just to make sure he doesn’t try to wear it in a game. “As everybody knows,” Leyland said, “he has been and will be one of my favorites since I’ve been here. … I think he does some stuff just to mess with me.”
  • Brandon Inge reported to camp Sunday morning, after pitchers and catchers had gone out to the field, and had a confused look on his face when he saw former Tiger Chris Shelton’s nametag on what used to be Inge’s locker. “Where am I at,” he asked aloud. Actually, it’s still Inge’s locker, but it’s an old nametag placed over his. Inge’s next task will be to try to figure out who pulled the trick. For the record, Shelton is in camp with the Mariners this spring.
  • The only Tiger not expected to be fully ready when full-squad workouts begin Tuesday is outfielder Clete Thomas, who can do everything but throw. Thomas underwent Tommy John surgery late last season, and he isn’t expected to be throwing until closer to the end of spring training. He’s one of the candidates for a backup outfield job, and his ability to back up Curtis Granderson as the center fielder is an advantage in his favor — if he’s healthy.
  • A report in the Lakeland Ledger a few days ago said Polk County, which includes Lakeland, is seeing widespread cases of the flu and flu-like symptoms.
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