Thursday, November 20, 2008

So Many Questions Part II: Joel Zumaya

Joel Zumaya's young career has already had as many twists and turns as a carnival fun house.  He's gone from flame-throwing phenom to injury-prone question mark in a hurry.  He's on the verge of becoming this generation's  Mark Fydrich, and that's got to scare the tattoos off his forearms.  

In a article, Jason Beck tells us Zumaya has been cleared to begin rehab exercises on his stress-fractured shoulder.  Zumaya should be our closer by now, but his career has gotten derailed not once, not twice, but three times due to injury.

I was interested to see Jim Leyland tell in Jason Beck's piece how he didn't fear bringing Verlander and Zumaya up in 2006, because he felt they had both had a gritty mentality.  Specifically, he called Zumaya "macho."  I read an ESPN the Magazine article about Zumaya, and didn't really come away with that impression.  To me, it looked more like a put on bravado in some ways.  The article showed his vulnerability as a young hot-shot who had not reached his potential thus far.  Zumaya even went so far as to admit that there was a time after the shoulder injury when he didn't think he'd ever pitch again.  

The portrayal in that article, combined with his emotion-filled reactions to some of his performances hint to me that he might not (at least not yet) have the mindset of a closer.  We know it's a tough job, in which you've got to be able to "let it go" in a hurry so you can pitch again the next night.  I'm not sure if he's ready for all that comes along with the closer role.  I hope we get a chance to see him try it out, though.  Hey, we're used to roller-coaster rides here anyway.  I'm always standing up like the poker player who's all in when watching the ninth inning of close games.

One thing is sure.  I'm thrilled that Kevin Rand has emphasized ensuring that his shoulder strength is fully back before any baseball work resumes.  


Anonymous said...

There was a time when I believed Zumaya to be the next Trevor Hoffman. So much potential.

But you have to remember that he is still really young. Once he figures this game out - and maybe how to throw a consistent off-speed pitch - I think he will do just fine. Imagine a 1-2 punch of Zumaya and Perry.

OldEnglish said...

I agree, I think he'll be fine if he can stay injury-free. It's just that people want to rush and slot him as closer, then they'll be the first to complain if he's not an instant success.