Joel Zumaya had his hand examined by a specialist today and the news was not good. It was revealed that he has a ruptured tendon in his right middle finger and it is estimated that he'll be out for three months. After watching trainer Kevin Rand sprint out to the bullpen and seeing the pain on Zumaya's face on Sunday night, I was not expecting a foavorable outcome. Still, the official announcement is a little disheartening.
Where does this leave the Tigers this year? It's easy for fans to feel confident during a seven game winning streak but there is no question that this is a big loss. I considered Zoom's 7th and 8th inning role to be even more valuable than the closer role. Whereas Todd Jones typically comes in with nobody on base and pitches one inning, Zumaya often came into the game with men on base and pitched more than one inning.
Jim Leyland's job just got a lot more difficult. He will need to shuffle the bullpen with Fernando Rodney likely taking over taking over Zumaya's role and Jose Mesa, Wil Ledezma and Bobby Seay taking on bigger roles . He will probably be forced to mix and match with lefties and righties more often. He'll also need to be careful not overwork anybody. I still expect a strong season from in Rodney despite his slow start but he's not Zumaya and I'm less confident in the other bullpen arms in high leverage situations.
Dave Dombrowski faces a bit of a challenge as well. Consider that since the end of last year, they have lost Zumaya, Kenny Rogers and Jamie Walker and replaced them with Chad Durbin, Jose Mesa and Bobby Seay. That's not a very good exchange. This shouldn't knock them out of the race but it makes things a lot more difficult. I suspect Dombrowski to be very busy over the next couple of months looking for pitching help.
What does this mean for Zoom long term? Billfer is a little worried and I share his concerns. The good news is that it's not a shoulder or elbow injury but a finger injury does not seem to be that much better. I'm not a doctor or a trainer or a pitcher but it seems that an injury to the hand with which you grip and release the ball is not going to be an easy one from which to recover. Plus, this is most likely a pitching related injury opposed to a fall or a line drive off the arm. Thus, I would guess that there is a possibility of a recurrence unless he changes his grip or release. I'm not counting on his making a full comeback this year.