Category archive: Joel Zumaya

Spring Training Blog: Feb. 24

February, 24, 2010
In a perfect world, Jason Giambi would be reporting to spring training as a designated hitter for a contender in the American League. Instead, Giambi returned to the Rockies in Tucson on Wednesday, where he will be an occasional fill-in for Todd Helton at first base and a pinch-hitter.

Giambi signed a one-year deal for $1.75 million in January after not being able to secure a job as an everyday DH. Just because it was Plan B doesn't make it any less desirable, Giambi said.

"Trust me, in a perfect world, I'd love to say I could still go out there every day at first base and still play," Giambi said after reporting to camp Wednesday. "I would've loved that opportunity to see what I could do [as a] DH day-in and out with a team that had an opportunity [to win]. But I enjoy it here. I really had a great time, and I'm excited to be back."

The 36-year-old Helton admitted to wearing down at the end of last season. He told Tracy that he was amenable to more rest this season, which would open up at-bats for Giambi. And Giambi's presence bolsters the bench and gives Tracy another left-handed bat to go with outfielder Seth Smith.

Helton said Giambi, a lifetime .282 hitter with 409 home runs and .527 slugging percentage, brings "intimidation" at the plate and a "clubhouse presence" to the Rockies. One of Giambi's strengths, Helton said, is his ability to discuss hitting and do it with a calming influence.

-- The Associated Press

Washington general manager Mike Rizzo said RHP Stephen Strasburg, the No. 1 pick in June's draft, would make his first exhibition start on March 9 against Detroit at Space Coast Stadium and will pitch every fifth day, regardless of where the game was to be played.

Washington pitching coach Steve McCatty told he is looking forward to watching Strasburg throw against big league hitters.

"This will be my first chance to see him face hitters. Everybody is really excited," McCatty told "We'll see how it goes. Who knows what's going to happen after that. We are just going to go and see how it's going to works out. We are going to have a rain day every once in a while, so everything is always done in pencil."

-- news services

Joel Zumaya's overpowering pitching sessions have attracted a lot of attention in the early days of spring training. Just six months ago, as he was preparing for a second major operation in less than two years on his aching right shoulder, he wondered whether his career might be over at the age of 24.

"I've asked myself plenty of times: When does this stop? It's come down plenty of times to: That's enough, my arm is shot," Zumaya said. "I've had so many surgeries already. I've seen plenty of guys' careers end. They're done; they just make the decision to go home. I know I have some left. I have a lot left."

He has so much left that manager Jim Leyland sometimes shakes his head in disbelief.

"I watched him throwing the other day and I remarked to one of the coaches: 'How does a human being hit that?'" Leyland said. "That blows my mind ... the ball is exploding up there, and it's impressive enough that he can throw it that way; it's more impressive that somebody can hit it."

The Tigers would like Zumaya to take back the eighth-inning role he had in his rookie season of 2006, when he struck out 97 in 83 1/3 innings and they won the pennant.

"It bothered me all last year," Zumaya said. "I kept my mouth shut, but it hurt all year. I tried to do as much as I could to help this team, and it's probably my fault that I did it but I'm a competitor. I don't want to sit on the bench and watch my teammates go out there and battle it off, and then the seventh and eighth inning come along and the game goes the other way."

-- The Associated Press

The Phillies say they have some "unfinished business" this year after falling two wins shy of repeating as World Series champions.

"Last year didn't go the way we wanted it to," Ryan Howard said. "Hopefully everyone comes in here with the mindset of unfinished business, everyone gets locked in and we have a good spring training and carry it out to the season."

The two-time defending NL champions are hoping for another long season that carries into late October and possibly early November. But they've got a long way to go before they get there. The team held its second full-squad workout Wednesday and live batting practice starts Thursday.

Chase Utley and Raul Ibanez are among the hitters scheduled to face new ace Roy Halladay.

-- The Associated Press

Vernon Wells says he's finally prepared to assume the mantle of leadership for the youth-laden Toronto Blue Jays.

"It's a fun role to be in," he said. "Guys look at you to do the right things and how to be successful at this level. It's a role I'm looking forward to. For me, it's pretty easy. You expect guys to go out and play hard. That's my point to everybody. There's one thing you can control in this game and that's going out and playing the game the right way and respecting the game. Things will work out after that."

Manager Cito Gaston said Wells and second baseman/designated hitter Aaron Hill, starting his sixth season, "are probably going to be two guys who step up and do it. You've always got to remember you lead by example.

"You're going to have bad nights and you're going to have to handle them the right way. You're going to have good nights and you're going to have to handle them the right way," Gaston said. "Leadership is tough to do. Some people are leaders, some are not."

One thing Wells has going for him this spring is a pain-free left wrist. He fractured it making a sliding catch in Cleveland on May 10, 2008, underwent surgery and missed 26 games, and 25 more because of hamstring problems.

-- The Associated Press

Pirates reliever Octavio Dotel is off to a slower start than he expected at spring training.

Dotel strained a muscle on the left side of his upper body Sunday while throwing a bullpen session. The injury is not considered serious, but Dotel has been shut down for a few days as a precaution.

The 36-year-old Dotel has pitched a total of 160 innings over the past three years. The Pirates signed the oft-injured pitcher in the offseason.

"It's good that it wasn't a big pop or a snap or anything," manager John Russell said Wednesday. "It's better it happened now than later in camp. There are no concerns he won't be ready for the season."

The Pirates already had planned on taking it easy with their new closer. Like Dotel, right-hander Brendan Donnelly also will be eased into his spring workload.

-- The Associated Press

Brett Anderson, who went 11-11 with a 4.06 ERA and finished sixth in American League Rookie of the Year balloting last season, is concentrating on improving his changeup. He went home to Stillwater, Okla., in the offseason and worked on the pitch with his father, Frank, the head baseball coach at Oklahoma State.

Anderson hopes the pitch will help him put more balls in play early in counts and allow him to go deeper in games. He threw 175 1/3 innings in his rookie season.

"I've thrown a change before, but it's never been a confidence pitch for me," Anderson said. "I've always had enough confidence in my slider and curveball to throw them whenever I wanted to. [The changeup] is getting better, but it's a process."

Anderson also plans to do a better job of moving the ball around in the strike zone. He recalls a confrontation with Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval last year, when he kept pounding the inside corner with fastballs before finally surrendering a three-run homer.

"No matter how good your stuff is, if big league hitters are looking for one pitch in one location, they're definitely going to hit it," Anderson said.

-- Jerry Crasnick,

This spring, Mets manager Jerry Manuel is looking for someone to pitch the eighth inning, and deliver the ball to closer Francisco Rodriguez. When asked which of the many candidates might have a slight edge, he pointed at 30-year-old right-hander Ryota Igarashi from Japan.

"He throws strikes, and he has this," Manuel said, putting his right hand in a split-fingered grip position. "He could give a different look to hitters the first month of the season."

Igarashi, 30, was 3-2 with a 3.19 ERA in 56 games last year for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, in Japan. Kelvim Escobar, Bobby Parnell and Sean Green are other likely candidates for the set-up role.

The Mets opened camp with a rotation that includes Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez and John Maine. Jonathon Niese is perhaps the leader among several candidates for the fifth starter spot.

Finding a complement for Santana at the top of the rotation will be crucial to the Mets' chances to contend in the National League East. Perez, always erratic, came to camp in very good shape, several Mets said. He has worked with Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax in camp and has, from all reports, thrown the ball well in his bullpen sessions this spring.

-- Tim Kurkjian, ESPN The Magazine

When the Mariners trotted out for infield drills on Tuesday, second baseman Jose Lopez went to third base and newly acquired third baseman Chone Figgins headed over to second.

Was it spring training jitters? Or some clubhouse humor at the new guy's expense? No, and no. Lopez has been asked to give third base a try, while Figgins, who has big league experience at second, will move across the infield.

"I'll try to catch ground balls at third base and see what happens at spring training, play in a couple of games," Lopez said, according to The Seattle Times. "If I like it, I like it. I'll try."

Lopez said he had a hunch that he might be asked to make the shift when the Mariners signed Figgins, according to the report. And when Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu approached him with the idea, he agreed to give it a try.

"Figgins is a good guy and quick," Lopez said, according to the Times. "He's got better range. And we need it. I've got a better arm than Figgins at third base, especially with a diving catch. But it's no big deal. I'll wait for the games and see how I'm feeling in the games."

"We're going to look at it and see," Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said, according to the report. "There's nothing etched in stone right now. We're just looking to see what our different options are."

-- news services

The comparisons already are out of control for Atlanta Braves prospect Jason Heyward.

Chipper Jones says the 6-foot-5 Heyward looks like former Braves first baseman Fred McGriff, only bigger.

Eric Hinske says Heyward hits line drives like Cliff Floyd.

Leave it to manager Bobby Cox to trump those comparisons.

Cox says the ball sounds different coming off Heyward's bat. It's a sound Cox says he has heard before -- "kind of like ol' Hank Aaron's sound."

Heyward calls Cox's comparison to the Hall of Famer "awesome." Even more exciting to the 20-year-old is the word from Cox that Heyward can win a starting job in right field this spring.

-- The Associated Press


March, 28, 2009
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Tim Lincecum got in some work on the mound in a minor league warmup against the Los Angeles Angels.

The NL Cy Young winner, trying to improve his mechanics, allowed one run on five hits and struck out six in five innings Saturday night for the San Francisco Giants.

San Francisco held Lincecum out of the team's game against San Diego because he could face the Padres twice in the first three weeks of the regular season. Lincecum is scheduled to start the first game of the Bay Area series against Oakland on Thursday before facing Milwaukee in the Giants' regular-season opener April 7 at AT&T Park.

"I can't emphasize it enough, the rhythm thing," Lincecum said. "I just haven't found a consistent track to keep holding onto that rhythm. It's a little frustrating, but I'm glad I got a little bit more time before the season starts. [Spring training] is always a matter of trying to get everything back. It's a matter of getting your body used to the games, the grind, everything. Just taking all that in.

"Every year, it's trying to get that again and again."

Jason Hammel made his case to win a spot in Tampa Bay's starting rotation, tossing five scoreless innings in the Rays' 5-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday.

Hammel walked Willy Taveras to start the game, but picked him off first base for the first out. Hammel sailed from there, allowing just two hits and striking out four.

"I just went back to the aggressive approach that I was using early in camp," Hammel said. "It was basically just attack. I wasn't going to walk guys today. The one walk to Willy was pretty close."

Manager Joe Maddon was pleased with the way Hammel commanded his fastball, pounding it low in the strike zone. He also liked the way the right-hander was able to shake off his previous outing against the Pirates, in which he allowed four runs on six hits and walked five in four innings against the Pirates.

Hammel is competing with Jeff Niemann for the final spot with the runner-up headed to the bullpen as the long man.

John Lackey received a cortisone shot to hasten the healing process for his sore right elbow Saturday.

"It's difficult to quantify but I don't think it's anything major," said Dr. Lewis Yokum, who flew in to examine Lackey. "Obviously it's frustrating for him."

Yokum said the current elbow strain is unrelated to the elbow injury that caused Lackey to miss the first six weeks of last season. This strain is on the inside of the elbow while last year's was on the outside.

Lackey, who will almost certainly open the season on the disabled list, will rest the arm for at least three to four days. Yokum said it's a coin flip as to how long he'll need once he begins throwing again. "Hopefully we got the elbow quieted down. It could be a couple weeks. But if we didn't get rid of the inflammation, it could be longer.''

With Ervin Santana (elbow) and Kelvim Escobar (labrum) also likely to open the year on the d.l., Joe Saunders, Jered Weaver, Dustin Mosely, Nick Adenhart and Shane Loux are the probable rotation when the season opens.

Escobar threw 40 pitches and retired the first 10 batters he faced in a minor league game Saturday.

-- writer Jim Caple

Shairon Martis and Jordan Zimmermann have won the last two spots in the Washington Nationals' starting rotation.

Martis will start the year on the big league roster, but Zimmermann will start the year in the minors before his first start against Florida on April 19.

The Nationals also placed outfielder Wily Mo Pena on waivers Saturday, and reassigned infielder Jose Castillo and outfielder Corey Patterson to minor league camp.

Catcher Javier Valentin also was reassigned, but opted out to become a free agent. Pitcher Collin Balester also was reassigned to Triple-A Syracuse.


Catcher Ronny Paulino was traded Saturday for the second time in 24 hours and the third time since December, and he's now with the Florida Marlins.

The San Francisco Giants sent Paulino to Florida for minor-league right-hander Hector Correa. The deal was announced Saturday after Paulino was traded Friday night to the Giants from the Philadelphia Phillies for left-handed pitcher Jack Taschner.

Paulino is expected to share playing time with John Baker. Paulino was traded to the Phillies from Pittsburgh last Dec. 10 for catcher Jason Jaramillo. He had spent his entire career with the Pirates and hit .212 last year while being limited to 40 games because of a sprained ankle.

Derek Jeter bruised a knuckle on his left pinkie during a collision at first base in the first inning of the New York Yankees' game against Atlanta on Saturday, but remained in the game.

He played three innings in the field, and the team said Jeter is fine.

The Yankees captain ran into Braves first baseman Greg Norton, who moved along the first-base line to catch a throw from second baseman Martin Prado after Prado fielded Jeter's grounder.

Cincinnati Reds right-hander Aaron Harang got a quicker start on his offseason conditioning program.

The stocky starter lost 33 pounds in an effort to make sure last year's hideous 6-17 season didn't happen again.

The 6-foot-7 pitcher is noticeably thinner around the middle. During his career-worst season in 2008, he topped out at 284 pounds. He was hurt for nearly a month, with a strained right forearm disabling him from mid-July to early August.

"That was a tough year on him last year," manager Dusty Baker said. "Different people handle those tough years in a different way. But I think he really dedicated himself over the winter. You don't lose that weight in a month. You dedicate yourself for three or four months. It's really tough to do that.

"It shows you how badly he wanted to return to excellence."

Once glance says it all.

The Cleveland Indians optioned outfielder Trevor Crowe and utility player Chris Gimenez to Triple-A Columbus of the International League on Saturday.

Crowe, drafted in the first round out of Arizona in 2005, lost a battle to veterans Tony Graffanino and Josh Barfield for the final position-player spot on the roster. The switch-hitter batted .289 with one homer and three RBIs in 17 spring exhibition games.

The 26-year-old Gimenez hit .357 with two homers and seven RBIs in 20 games at catcher, first base, third base, left field and right field.

"He's put himself on the radar," Wedge said of Gimenez, a 19th-round pick out of Nevada in 2004.

The Pirates reduced their spring training roster to 37 players Saturday by optioning outfielder Steve Pearce and catcher Robinzon Diaz to Triple-A Indianapolis and assigning infielder Anderson Machado to their minor league camp.

Diaz was sent down after the Pirates settled on Jason Jaramillo as catcher Ryan Doumit's backup. Jaramillo was acquired during the offseason from the Phillies for former Pirates starting catcher Ronny Paulino, was dealt by Philadelphia to San Francisco on Friday for reliever Jack Taschner.

Pearce was unable to break into a now-crowded outfield that added Eric Hinske and Craig Monroe during the offseason and is expected to play first base at Indianapolis. Pearce hit .212 this spring with no homers and three RBIs.

Don't count on seeing starter Jeremy Bonderman or reliever Joel Zumaya on Detroit's active roster when the Tigers start the regular season.

"In my personal opinion, it's highly unlikely that [Bonderman] will be ready to start the season," manager Jim Leyland said Saturday in Dunedin, Fla., where the Tigers were playing the Blue Jays.

Leyland said the same goes for Zumaya, who has yet to pitch in an actual game this spring. Zumaya threw in a minor-league intrasquad game on Saturday, but the team didn't disclose the results of that outing.

Bonderman is scheduled to start on Sunday in Lakeland and throw 50 pitches against the Braves.

Last season, the Tigers unsuccessfully tried to bring Bonderman and Zumaya back from injuries. It didn't work, and there won't be a repeat of that strategy this year, Leyland said.

"We've gotta use our brains [with Bonderman]," Leyland said. "The same goes for Zumaya. We're not going to rush them back. ... I've had enough of that. We don't want to go through that again."

If Bonderman isn't ready for Opening Day, Zach Miner is likely to wind up in the Tigers' rotation. And 20-year-old Rick Porcello, a highly-touted prospect, is still very much in the mix for a roster spot.

How much? Leyland, rather than take the bus from Lakeland to Dunedin on Saturday morning, stayed behind to watch Porcello throw a bullpen session, then drove to Dunedin on his own.

Leyland said he wanted to have a few words with Porcello. "I just wanted to talk to him. I wanted to make a few comments. I think that was really important," he said.

-- baseball writer Jayson Stark


John Lackey is doubtful to start for the Angels on Opening Day after an MRI revealed inflammation in his throwing elbow. Lackey was expected to start the season on the disabled list.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Friday that "right now, it's definitely unlikely" Lackey will be ready for the April 6 game against the Oakland Athletics, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Lackey joins Ervin Santana, out with a sprained elbow ligament, and Kelvim Escobar, who is rehabbing from shoulder surgery, as Angels starters recovering from injury.

"We have starting pitching depth, but right now we're stretching it as far as we're comfortable with," Scioscia said, according to the newspaper.

The Boston Red Sox will send Josh Beckett to the mound on Opening Day against the Tampa Bay Rays, manager Terry Francona said Saturday. James Shields will oppose Beckett in the opener, on Monday, April 6 at Fenway Park. On Wednesday, the Red Sox will start Jon Lester against the Rays' Scott Kazmir.

On Thursday, Daisuke Matsuzaka will go for Boston against Tampa Bay's Matt Garza.

Francona also said that Lester and Matsuzaka will start a pair of exhibition games April 3-4 against the New York Mets at their new home, Citi Field.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.


March, 7, 2009
Carlos Zambrano wants to start on opening day for the Chicago Cubs, and he's not shy about it.

"I care," Zambrano said Saturday during a 2-0 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers. "When you're retired and you go home and your grandkids ask you what you did, for your own records it's good."

Cubs manager Lou Piniella said earlier in the day that the April 6 assignment against Houston will go to Zambrano or Ryan Dempster.

Zambrano was 14-6 with a 3.91 ERA last year, while Dempster finished 17-6 with a 2.96 ERA. Piniella said he would talk to both pitchers before making his decision.

-- Associated Press

New York Mets pitcher Mike Pelfrey will be out indefinitely with a muscle strain in his lower left leg.

He was examined by team doctors Saturday after feeling discomfort following a bullpen session Friday and was instructed to rest, which means he will miss his next scheduled start Monday.

Meanwhile, starter Dillon Gee threw two innings in the Mets' 7-5 loss to the Washington Nationals Saturday without allowing a hit or run. Only a walk spoiled his otherwise perfect outing, which included two strikeouts. Gee was reassigned to the team's minor league camp on Friday.

Manager Jerry Manuel expects 2B Luis Castillo to return to the lineup Sunday. He was pulled in the fifth inning of Friday's 5-4 win over the Cardinals with a tight left hamstring.

-- Associated Press

Chien-Ming Wang passed another test, and it had nothing to do with his pitching arm.

Wang allowed one run and three hits over three innings in the New York Yankees' 3-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Saturday.

The right-hander missed the final 3 months of last season because of a right foot injury that occurred while he was running the bases during an interleague game against Houston on June 15.

-- Associated Press

Jose Contreras and Bartolo Colon are scheduled to throw batting practice at Chicago White Sox camp Monday, the next step after each threw 55 pitches in a bullpen session Saturday without any problem.

"It was a very positive day," pitching coach Don Cooper said. "We're more and more excited about their chances to be ready to open the season."

It was the third bullpen session since Monday for Contreras and Colon. Without setbacks, they could see Cactus League action in about a week.

Contreras is more than three months ahead of schedule after rupturing his left Achilles' tendon last August. Colon is coming off offseason surgery to clean up some bone chips in his right elbow.

If Contreras and Colon are ready for Opening Day, that could fill out the White Sox rotation behind Mark Buehrle, John Danks and Gavin Floyd.

-- Associated Press

Detroit Tigers right-handed reliever Joel Zumaya will not throw for at least the next couple of days, following an exam of his right shoulder by Dr. James Andrews on Friday.

Tigers head trainer Kevin Rand said Andrews diagnosed Zumaya's rotator cuff with "normal spring-training soreness." And Tigers manager Jim Leyland expects Zumaya will be ready for Opening Day on April 6.

That's good news for the Tigers, considering how much trouble Zumaya has had with his shoulder. He underwent reconstructive surgery on the shoulder's AC joint in 2007, missed much of 2008 and was diagnosed with a stress fracture last fall.

"We wanted to make sure there was nothing more going on," Rand said, according to the Detroit Free Press. "To be honest, we wanted to reassure him that everything was OK.

"One thing with Joel: You've got to understand that he's gone through an awful lot. He's thinking, 'Hey, I want to make sure nothing more's going on,' " Rand said, according to the report. "And you know what? I don't have a problem with it. I want to make sure for him, too. So, that's what we went to do."

The Los Angeles Angels are correcting their media guide after Vladimir Guerrero let slip that he's actually 34 years old, not 33.

The missing year was uncovered by Yahoo! Sports columnst Tim Brown, who was working on a story about Guerrero. He had asked the outfielder to respond to a quote from Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who said the surgery Guerrero had last fall to clean out and repair his right knee could "point to a guy maybe turning back the clock a couple of years."

When that was posed to Guerrero through an interpreter, he responded, "I feel good. I can't say [like] 25, because, you know, I'm 34. But I feel a lot better. That's where I'm at right now."

The Angels had listed Guerrero's birth date as Feb. 9, 1976. But Guerrero admitted to a team executive later in the day that he was born on the same date in 1975, making him 34, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Perhaps Jimmy Rollins should have copyrighted the phrase, "We're the team to beat."

Because two years after the Philadelphia Phillies shortstop uttered those words, his confident prediction has skipped leagues and time zones, to the AL West. This time, it's the Los Angeles Angels' Torii Hunter making confident predictions.

"I still think we're the team to beat. I know we are," Hunter said before Friday's Angels-Giants game, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

But what about the Oakland Athletics loading up their lineup with Matt Holliday, Jason Giambi, Orlando Cabrera and Nomar Garciaparra?

"Good pitching will beat good hitting any day. Don't forget that," Hunter said, according to the report, noting an Angels' rotation featuring John Lackey, Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders and a bullpen that added former Colorado Rockies closer Brian Fuentes.

Will the A's respond? Stay tuned ...

Baseball injuries can come out of nowhere. But even that doesn't explain what happened to new Atlanta Braves outfielder Garret Anderson on Friday.

Anderson, who signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the Braves, was scratched from Friday's game against the Houston Astros after pulling his right calf muscle -- while running in warmups.

"I've never done anything like this before, so I don't have any history with it," Anderson said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Just have to see how it responds to treatment in the next few days before you can have a guess-timate, but it's tissue that needs to heal, and there's no set time on that."

According to the report, it will be several days before Anderson knows how long he'll be out of the lineup.

"I've been working out fine," Anderson added, according to the report. "And then something out-of-the-ordinary freak happens."

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.