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A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to return to the top of the American League Central.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Zumaya signs with Twins, as both he and Tigers move on

You could look at it one of two ways.

A optimist might say that the workload of Tigers trainer Kevin Rand just lessened considerably.

A pessimist might point out that one of the Tigers’ chief rivals may have benefitted from the organization’s reluctance to continue throwing money at that recurring injury issue.

When Joel Zumaya — the former rookie sensation with the Tigers in 2006, and oft-injured since — reportedly signed with the Minnesota Twins on Sunday, it finally closed an uncomfortable chapter for both parties.’s Jason Beck, who first broke the story, reported that Zumaya’s deal could reach anywhere between $800,000 and $1.7 million, based on incentives.

The Tigers, who’d paid him $3.88 million over the last five years but gotten in return just 126 innings in parts of four seasons, were only offering a minor league deal with a spring training invitation.

General manager Dave Dombrowski said at the start of the offseason that he wouldn’t blame Zumaya for taking an offer of guaranteed money, if someone else put it on the table.

But it wasn’t going to be the Tigers.

When he appeared at Comerica Park during the American League Championship Series, Zumaya indicated he’d love to return to the team that drafted him in the 11th round in 2002.

“I don’t know where I’m going to end up next year. Hopefully it’s here. I love this place,” said Zumaya, who later held a workout for scouts, reportedly hitting the mid-90s with his fastball, a showcase the Tigers did not attend.
“If the Tigers want to go ahead and talk and do something, I’m ready. I don’t feel like going anywhere else. I started here and I wish I could end here.”

Considering Zumaya had never matched his rookie season, when he went 6-3 with a 1.94 ERA in 83 games for the World Series-bound Tigers, there’s no guarantee what the Twins will get. He’s endured four surgeries (two since last appearing in a game on June 28, 2010, at Minnesota) to correct injuries to three different parts of his pitching arm — shoulder, finger and elbow — forcing him to miss parts of four seasons and all of last year.

The Tigers, for their part, stuck with Zumaya through all the injuries and rehabs, re-signing him to a one-year, $1.4 million contract at this time last year. But they’d also hamstrung themselves by depending on Zumaya’s presence in the bullpen in the late innings, a weakness that they addressed this offseason with the signing of Octavio Dotel.

Now, both parties have moved on.

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