It was yet another frustrating moment in what appeared at one time to be a special career in the making.
Zumaya's major league career has been one harrowing roller coaster ride. He enjoyed rock star status in 2006 when as a 21 year-old rookie he took the American League by storm, lighting up radar guns at 103 MPH. An intimidating demeanor coupled with lightening-filled arm made Zumaya one of the most feared relievers in the game at a young age. The Tigers marched to the World Series in 2006, and a good portion of the credit belonged to Zumaya who over matched hitters on a nightly basis. Zumaya averaged 10 1/2 strikeouts per nine innings his rookie season.
The sky appeared to be the limit. Yet, the one thing that struck me about Zumaya's style was that he possessed one of the most maximum-effort deliveries this side of Troy Percival. You only wondered if he would be able to stay healthy. That question was answered over the next five years. Multiple surgeries (two on his elbow, two on his shoulder and one for a ruptured finger tendon) left his fans wondering if he would ever return to his 2006 form. So far he has not.
Zumaya is a person you root for. Enduring the many surgery rehabs and mental strain of wondering if you will ever pitch again takes its toll on the psyche. Yet, he has bounced back every time. The hope was that he would regain his form in a Tigers uniform, reliving the glory days of 2006. That will not be the case. The Twins signed Zumaya to a one year deal and his return to the major leagues will have to come on the very field where he fell to the turf with a devastating injury in 2010.
As Zumaya moves on, the memories remain. His big league debut in Kansas City when he struck out three in two innings on opening day. Watching him sneak a peak at the stadium radar gun after throwing a fastball, anticipating triple digits. Having an opportunity to engage an intimidating, yet approachable, personality in the clubhouse on a daily basis.
The Tigers could not offer Zumaya a guaranteed contract, especially after an endless string of injuries that left the club frustrated at every turn. Sometimes a fresh start is a good thing. In this case it is probably best that both sides move on.