illustration by Samara Pearlstein
You knew that Joel Zumaya had been hurt. You were aware of the severity of the injury (exploded elbow bones). But you were listening to all the predictions and timetables, everything that was saying Zoom shouldn’t be too far behind come spring. You thought that he was going to be ready to go come Opening Day.
Ha HA! FOOLS! Joel Zumaya will always be more injured than you anticipate. He’s totally not going to be ready to go for Opening Day. Duh.
Initially he was being held out because some soreness had developed in his elbow, and we were told that he had torn some of the scar tissue that developed in there after the horrible break he suffered last season. OK, gross, but whatever: they said it wasn’t serious, in fact it was expected, and I was naively ready to believe that. I considered it such a non-story that I didn’t even bother making a post about it at the time.
But this is Joel Zumaya! Of course it didn’t end there. No, the soreness persisted, apparently beyond what they thought reasonable for a normal (?) bit of busted scar tissue. There was pain. There was inflammation. Start the tests! SHUT IT ALL DOWN. Now, the most recent tests don’t appear to have unearthed any obvious fresh damage. Great! But the Tigers don’t know what IS causing the inflammation in Zoom’s elbow (not the irritation of some free-floating scar tissue, I guess?).
“It could be as simple as [the elbow] adapting to the stress of throwing again,” head athletic trainer Kevin Rand, “but we don’t know.”
In any event, as Tom Gage points out, Zoom hasn’t thrown since February 27 and most likely won’t be cleared to pitch again until March 14 at the earliest, which means he’ll be at least a couple of weeks behind and probably won’t be Opening-Day-ready.
How could we have expected anything else? We knew it was going to come to something like this. It is the Way of Zumaya, the yin and the yang of his career, the velocity-drenched potential set up against and simultaneously enfolded within the surety of traumatic injury. Meditate upon it and learn about the fragility of the human arm, and the inevitability of life.
So Zoom will be ready eventually, maybe, assuming this is just recovery inflammation and it will go down soon enough. But why should any of us be comfortable with that assumption? He’s probably going to fall into a pit of alligators and have his entire right arm eaten (Brad Penny’s fiancee has been feeding them, so they’re probably getting comfortable around Tigers). Or he will trip and fall and Gene Lamont will emerge suddenly from the crowd to run his arm over with a golf cart.