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Monday, January 16, 2012
Report: Joel Zumaya to sign with Twins

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Oft-injured relief pitcher Joel Zumaya and the Minnesota Twins have agreed on an $850,000, one-year contract.

A person with direct knowledge of the deal, speaking on condition of anonymity because the team had yet to officially announce it, confirmed the agreement to The Associated Press. Zumaya's decision to join the Twins was first reported by MLB.com.

Zumaya can make up to $900,000 more in performance bonuses, bringing the potential value of the contract to $1.75 million.

The 27-year-old right-hander was a dominant, hard-throwing setup man for division rival Detroit in 2006, a head-turning rookie capable of throwing 100 mph heat who helped the Tigers advance to the World Series. He hasn't pitched an entire season since then, however, because of a series of arm problems. The latest injury was a broken elbow he suffered at Minnesota in gruesome fashion during a game against the Twins at Target Field in June 2010, and he hasn't pitched in the majors since.

Zumaya said the day after he felt "a loud and disgusting pop," as if the joint had exploded, before falling to his knees in severe pain with fear his once-promising career was over in that instant. He started spring training last year set on a revival, but he felt soreness after pitching in his first exhibition game. He eventually had surgery in May and was shut down for the remainder of the season.

After logging more than 81 innings his rookie year, Zumaya hasn't topped 39 since.

He missed big chunks of the 2008 and 2009 seasons because of shoulder problems and was out of commission for much of the year before that with a middle finger strain. Finally, in 2010, Zumaya was back in form, putting up eye-popping numbers on the in-stadium radar screens, posting a 2.58 ERA in 38 1-3 innings with 34 strikeouts and just 11 walks, the best ratio of his career. But then there was the broken elbow.

If Zumaya can stay healthy this spring and still reach the upper 90s with his fastball, he'll give the Twins a much-needed strikeout threat in the back of their bullpen. Minnesota's relievers ranked last among the 30 major league teams last season with a collective 4.51 ERA, and their strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio of 6.31 was also the lowest in baseball.

The Twins have several spots open in their bullpen, behind closer Matt Capps and setup man Glen Perkins.

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AP Sports Writer Jon Krawczynski contributed to this report.