Results tagged ‘ Joel Zumaya ’

Mystery pitch for Zumaya?

Joel Zumaya says he has a new pitch that he’s developing and hopes to unveil shortly, a tease that might result in nothing more than a show pitch or could represent an effort to further expand his pitch selection. As it is, his current fastball-curveball combination seems to be working nicely so far.

As excited as Zumaya gets about a big strikeout, he seemed more excited about the double play he induced to erase the Indians’ seventh-inning scoring opportunity Friday. It wasn’t the triple-digit fastball he’s been powering all week, but a 98 mph fastball with some movement, which Mike Redmond pounded up the middle for rookie second baseman Scott Sizemore to start the twin-killing.

With that, the two walks with which the inning began resulted in nothing. Zumaya bounded off the mound and pumped his fist.

“A double play doesn’t come too often with me,” he said, “but it’s just as good as a strikeout — a BIG strikeout, bases loaded, two outs. That double play was kind of exciting for me. I didn’t quite try to show excitement, but I was kind of pleased that I got a big double play right there.”

For what it’s worth, Zumaya has been inducing more ground balls than fly balls, based mainly on his inning of work on Opening Day Monday at Kansas City. He has just two strikeouts so far, but that’s not a problem for him so far.

He’s looking for outs, and he’s looking for results out of a mix of pitches. He was pretty much all fastballs in his first inning Friday, then had more of a mix when he came back out for the eighth. He’s also mixing in two-seamers with his four-seam fastball to try to get more balls on the ground.

“In ’06, I was known to be a thrower,” Zumaya said. “I was going to just rear back and try to throw it as hard as I can past hitters. I’ve got a breaking ball that I’ve been working on really hard and it’s coming along really good. I’ve got another pitch that I’ve been working on. I’m not going to spill it to you guys just yet, but when you see it you’re going to ask me what the heck it was. And I’ve just been trying to locate my fastball in pretty good spots — in, out, 0-2, rise the ladder. It’s working to my advantage right now.”

That new pitch isn’t a cutter, Zumaya said, and we can safely say it’s not a knuckleball. After that, it’s anybody’s guess.

Zumaya hits 102 on radar gun

zumaya040510.jpgJoel Zumaya is no longer looking over his shoulder at stadium radar gun to see how hard he’s throwing. He knows his manager doesn’t like it when he does that. The only way he had any idea he was hitting 102 mph at Kauffman Stadium on Monday was from his teammates in the bullpen.

“To tell you the truth, I didn’t feel like I was throwing that hard today,” Zumaya said later.

It wasn’t exactly a priority for him. He was more concerned about throwing his curveball for strikes. The result was a nasty combination for Royals hitters and a seven-pitch sixth inning in which Zumaya sent down the side in order, getting the Tigers back to the plate for the top of the seventh to take the lead.

“Basically, I just wanted to go out there and get the hitters back in, so they could go out there and provide the runs they did,” Zumaya said.

Zumaya got second-pitch grounders from Jose Guillen and Willie Bloomquist, both on 101-mph fastballs, before he unleashed a nasty three-pitch combination to Yuniesky Betancourt. He spotted back-to-back 83 mph curveballs to start off Betancourt — the first for a called strike, the next one fouled off — before blowing his 102 mph fastball past him for a foul tip into catcher Gerald Laird’s mitt for strike three.

“I know when he’s got the good fastball, and I know the days when he’s going to have to use his breaking ball a little more,” Laird said. “I can tell [how fast it is] by receiving it. But his curveball was really good tonight, and that’s going to be a plus pitch for him to have.”

It’s that curveball that had Zumaya really pleased.

“I wanted to do what I did, get my breaking ball over early, feed off of that and climb the ladder on the fastball,” Zumaya said. “It happened just the way I wanted it to.”

It happened at the same place where Zumaya has had defining moments in his career. He made his major league debut here in 2006, when the Tigers opened the season in Kansas City. It was here, too, that Zumaya had the first of his many injuries over the past few years when he ruptured a tendon in his right middle finger while warming up in the bullpen. He’s clearly hoping this is the start of something big for him again.

Zumaya strikes out side, including Granderson

Joel Zumaya and Curtis Granderson were roommates in Detroit in 2006, their rookie season. They were teammates for three years after that. On Saturday, for the first time in their pro careers, they were opponents.

At least, it was the first time against each other officially.

“Curtis was probably 2-for-2 off me before that,” Zumaya said. “He got me a couple times in live BP [last year].”

Granderson doesn’t remember that, but he remembers facing him during fall instructional ball in 2003.

“The one at-bat I remember was in 2003, the instructional league,” Granderson said. “I hit the ball to the shortstop, live drive. But he was throwing 93. This is a lot harder.”

That explains why he went down swinging in the sixth inning. Zumaya threw a fastball by him at 100 mph for strike three.

“Stay like that,” was Granderson’s advice afterwards. “You locate first pitch great, then get some movement on the second and third pitch, to be able to get movement [throwing] that hard and be around the zone, it’s pretty neat.”

Zumaya acknowledged their history with a head nod as Granderson stepped in. At that point, they became opponents.

“As soon as the at-bat’s over, [the friendship] pops right back up again,” Granderson said.

At that point, Zumaya became another hitter’s problem. He threw a fastball, then a changeup, then spotted a curveball for a called third strike on Randy Winn. His last pitch hit 101 mph to send down Ramiro Pena swinging.

“I’m real pumped,” Zumaya said. “I’m in good form now. I mean, that’s what Spring Training is for, to get the blues out of you and start working on stuff. I’m starting to feel pretty good now.”

Zumaya was originally slated to pitch again Sunday to test him out on back-to-back days, but manager Jim Leyland pushed him back to Monday. He’ll probably pitch back-to-back days at some point next week, just not quite yet.

“He’s been better the last few times,” said Leyland, who pushed for Zumaya to better mix his pitches.

Monday notes: Hit or out, Laird making solid contact

Gerald Laird isn’t going to be a stellar hitter, or even necessarily a really good one statistically. I think we can agree on that one. What most people would settle for is for him not be overmatched nearly as often and for the ability to hit the ball hard when he makes contact.

Monday was that kind of day. Laird went 1-for-4 with a single and an RBI, but he also had a deep fly ball to the warning track in right-center field. It was the wrong place for him to hit the ball; he’ll readily admit he’s better off as a pull hitter. But it also shows the ability to make hard contact.

“I’m just excited that it’s coming,” Laird said. “I know I’m barreling the ball again. I’m getting back to where I felt comfortable when I had some good years in Texas. It’s exciting. I may not be getting the hits every time, but as long as I’m putting the barrel on the ball and hitting the ball hard, I’m excited. Save some of it for the season.”

Jim Leyland gave Laird some advice this spring: Hit a bunch of balls off a batting tee every morning, so that he has the same swing path every time.

Other notes …

  • Leyland wants to see his team bunting more. He counted opportunities that Ramon Santiago and Clete Thomas to lay down drag bunts with runners on base in recent days. He also said the bunt could be a weapon for Austin Jackson.
  • It got overlooked today, but Carlos Guillen had a smart piece of baserunning going first to third on an RBI single while nobody was paying attention to cover third. The throw home was cut off in plenty of time to nab Guillen, but nobody was covering the base. Not a fast baserunner anymore, but a smart one.
  • Leyland called the new deal between Joe Mauer and the Twins a no-brainer. “There’s certain guys you almost can’t let get away.” Leyland didn’t relate it to anything in Pittsburgh, but the Pirates had a guy or two that they arguably shouldn’t have let get away, either.
  • If you’re hanging around Lakeland and wondering what to do on the Tigers’ off-day Wednesday, Rick Porcello is throwing in a simulated game.
  • Joel Zumaya was on the pitching list for Monday’s game, but he didn’t make the trip because of flu-like symptoms. Apparently there’s a stomach virus that has been going around some of the Tigers, according to head athletic trainer Kevin Rand.

Zumaya might well be back

Full disclosure: It’s spring training, not even in spring games. Zumaya didn’t even have a batter in the box against him until this morning. And because he started throwing bullpen sessions last month, he’s ahead of pretty much everybody else.

Now that we have that out of the way, I can say that Zumaya’s throwing is raising eyebrows among coaches and officials. His fastball looks like the fastball of old, with movement. And he’s mixing in his breaking ball well.

How good does he look? Jim Leyland, who warns against getting excited about bullpen sessions, is getting excited.

“I’m holding my breath,” Leyland said, “because that stuff is nasty.”

Because heavy rain this morning waterlogged the back fields, pitchers threw to hitters on the stadium field today. Zumaya’s session drew a small crowd of fans and a number of players. Jose Valverde watched from behind the cage alongside Leyland and Dave Dombrowski. Justin Verlander watched from the side. Daniel Schlereth and his dad, Mark, watched from outside the dugout.

“The ball’s just flying out of his hand,” Leyland said earlier.

The results looked impressive. Zumaya threw a good number of breaking balls, and he seemed to be hitting his spots with it.

Zumaya: "I'm probably on my last string"

I was out on vacation last week, but I’m back to work and back in Lakeland, where it almost feels like I was here a few weeks ago rather than last April. But that doesn’t compare with Joel Zumaya, who has been here since right after New Year’s weekend.

I’ll have more on Zumaya on the site tomorrow, but two things stood out that warranted mentioning. First was that this is the best his arm has felt in about 2 1/2 years, by his estimation. Second was the feeling that this might be his last shot in Detroit.

“I’m coming in to prove something,” Zumaya said Tuesday. “I’ve got a lot to prove. The last two years, I’ve been sitting on the shelf, so I’m probably on my last string right now. And I don’t want that last string to get pulled. That’s why I’m here [so early]. I’ve been here since January. I’ve been throwing and I’ve been getting a lot of complements. I’m actually proving something.”

He feels like he’s proving that he’s in good shape after surgery. And he feels like his health is no longer an issue.

“I’m not worried about the health situation anymore,” he said, “because if I had problems, I would’ve been on a rehab program right now. My offspeed pitches, I’m not really too worried about that, either, because my arm slot is totally different from where I was the last two years. It’s a lot higher. It’s actually where I’m supposed to be. I mean, the last two years, I’ve thrown with my arm slot a little low because I had that little issue. I’ve kept my mouth shut for a while. I just had to get this done and get cleaned up.

“Like I said, I’m fine.  My arm slot’s going to be a lot better. My offspeed is a lot sharper. The ball’s coming down to a point. It’s not coming flat.”

Zumaya follow-up: Bonus for games played

Forgot to blog it yesterday, but you probably saw it on the site that the Tigers avoided arbitration with Joel Zumaya with a one-year, $915,000 contract, up from the $735,000 Zumaya made last year. Well, turns out he’ll make a little more than that if he stays healthy for the bulk of the year.

Zumaya’s contract includes a $20,000 bonus if he pitches in 35 games this year. Why is this significant? Because Zumaya’s 29 appearances last year marked his highest total since 2006. It isn’t a huge bonus when you consider the overall contract, but it’s kind of unusual for an arbitration-eligible player, whose contracts are usually straight salaries. In this case, it’s a way to bridge the gap between the value of Zumaya over a full season and the risk of injury.

Zumaya update: Rehab basically done

I know every rehab update on Joel Zumaya has to be taken cautiously, since another injury could be ahead. But even with that in the mind, the news coming from the Tigers is surprisingly good.

Zumaya, who had season-ending surgery this past summer to remove a bone shard from the stress fracture in his right shoulder, has progressed well enough throwingwise that he basically will be working out normally for the rest of the offseason rather than just rehabbing.

That doesn’t mean he’ll have a normal throwing program the rest of the winter, but for the first time in a few years, he gets to focus part of his offseason on strength and conditioning.

“Everything went well,” head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said. “He did a prethrowing program and then played catch up to 90 feet. As a result, we’re at a point where we’ve assimilated him into the normal strength and conditioning program.”

He’ll pick up his throwing program again once he reports to Spring Training early. That part isn’t new, but the fact that he finished up most of his rehab program early — it began late in the season, after all — is perceived as a good development.

That doesn’t mean he’s all clear and counted on to be a big part of the Tigers bullpen just yet. He has to prove he can stay healthy. It would be a surprise if his health impacted the Tigers’ dealings, at least at this point of the offseason. Still, this is better than most years.

Tigers part ways with Thames, Treanor

Marcus Thames’ Tigers tenure is likely over. The team removed him from the 40-man roster Friday, the first step towards making the slugging outfielder a free agent.

The move was part of the Tigers’ maneuverings to prepare their 40-man roster. Catcher Matt Treanor also was taken off the roster and will become a free agent. The moves free up spots for Reliever Joel Zumaya and infielder Jeff Larish both of whom were reinstated from the 60-day disabled list as required.

Infield prospect Michael Hollimon also was taken off the DL, but he was outrighted to Triple-A Toledo. Pitching prospect Jay Sborz, who would’ve been a minor league free agent, was added to the 40-man roster.

Thames was eligible for arbitration and was thus expected to be non-tendered this offseason. From that standpoint, Friday’s move makes him a free agent sooner than he would’ve been had the Tigers waited until the December deadline to offer a contract. Nonetheless, it likely ends a career that included several big home runs and torrid stretches in the Tigers lineup, though never culminating in the everyday role he would’ve liked.

Zumaya to have surgery Aug. 21

Joel Zumaya is slated to have surgery August 21 to correct the bone shard from the stress fracture in his right shoulder. Dr. James Andrews will conduct the procedure at his offices in Pensacola, Fla.