Have We Seen the Last Zumaya Fastball?

The term “exploratory surgery” sounds just about as much fun as any medical procedure can get. For an arm and a body that has already taken so much pain over the past five years, everybody has to be wondering if we won’t see that electricity again. Joel Zumaya is quite an enduring talent, and to see that incredible arm go under the knife yet again, should make us all wonder whether he will ever make that trot out of the bullpen again.

Back in January, I penned a piece highlighting how 2011 was a make-or-break year for Zumaya. From all we’ve heard from Tigers management to the press closest to the team, the question of Zumaya’s durability has been openly part of the conversation at Comerica Park. This pitching phenom made the choice to take on such a scary surgery based on his competitive ways, to prove that there’s still something left for MLB executives to feast their eyes on.

What are the chances that we see Zumaya back on the mound as an effective pitcher? If history tells us anything, getting back to the mound is only the first part of the battle. While many pitchers have fought their way back to the slab, very few have come back even close to 90% of what they once were. What happened on that mound against the Twins was so horrific that even that comeback looked to be light years away. To know that there’s been significant damage since that point, casts plenty of doubt in my mind how anybody would have the courage to ask for the ball again.

Much like the respect the organization has demonstrated for players like Magglio Ordonez, the love that fans and team officials have for Zumaya is truly everlasting. The 2006 season will always remain a memory, and the team must now decide how long they are willing to risk their roster on an oft-injured reliever from that World Series team.

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