I'm getting that Doom Doom feeling about Zoom Zoom again.
Joel Zumaya is feeling some more discomfort in his pitching shoulder. Again. And he's being held out of spring training competition. Again. And the Tigers' bullpen—specifically, who will pitch the seventh and eighth innings?—is back in flux. Again.
It may not be as serious as in previous instances, but anytime the topic du jour is Zumaya's shoulder, and the discussion includes words like "stiffness", "soreness", and "won't pitch"—well, you're excused if you start developing a nervous tick.
I'm not ready to breathe yet, when it comes to Zumaya and his attempts to play out a season in good health. And I won't exhale until the 2009 season is in the books and Zoom Zoom hasn't spent one day on the disabled list.
It may be a pipe dream, but you can't convince me that a pitcher is free from arm/shoulder trouble until he's played at least one season DL-free.
Of course, maybe Zumaya and the DL will become good acquaintances over the years. Doesn't mean his career is a dud, and it doesn't mean that he can't be a key contributor, once again, to the Tigers' bullpen.
It just may mean that he's a high maintenance pitcher. That, I suppose I can contend with. But there's nothing sadder than to see a young player flame out before his time (see Fidrych, Mark) due to injury or other things out of his control.
I'm sure the Tigers, burned in the past, are babying Zumaya, maybe beyond what's actually necessary. No qualms with that. But I just start to squirm, uncomfortably, whenever I read that Zumaya is being held out of spring games.
The Tigers can still market a C, C+ bullpen without Zumaya, but it's a solid "B" with him healthy and doing his thing. And the Tigers, as a team, jump a half-a-grade or so with Zumaya manning the seventh and eighth innings.
As pitchers and catchers reported for spring training last month, Zumaya declared himself healthy and pain-free. Said he hadn't felt this good in quite some time. Then, a few appearances later, he began to be held out of the reindeer games. Maybe it's just a precaution. I hope.
I'm not being totally selfish here; I want Zumaya healthy for HIS sake, too—not just for the Tigers'. I don't want him to be another cautionary tale. Like I said, it's too sad.
I'm not in super-duper panic mode yet, but I'll feel a whole lot better once Zoom Zoom is back on the mound, throwing pills to the plate, instead of ingesting them for pain.