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FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Joel Zumaya’s season is over, his time with the Minnesota Twins ended before it began because of a damaged elbow.
Now he has to decide whether his once-promising career is finished as well, and the reliever with the rocket right arm and the pattern of recurring injuries sounded like he’s ready to quit rather than endure another arduous year of rehabilitation.
“Right now, my perspective is probably not,” Zumaya said Monday, two days after tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow. “I know I’m pretty young, but I’m probably going to go on six surgeries if I go get another one. I’m only 27 years old. I’ve taken a lot of wear and tear on my body, especially my arm, and then rehab, and it just mentally takes a lot out of you.”
Zumaya didn’t pitch last season. He left the Detroit Tigers to sign with the division rival Twins, getting an incentive-laden one-year contract with $400,000 guaranteed.
“I’ve got a little 2½-year-old, so maybe it’s time to move on,” Zumaya said.
To resume his career Zumaya would need Tommy John surgery, the ligament-replacement procedure that typically requires at least a year of rehab. He said he expects to decide withing two days whether to have surgery or retire.
“It’s tough for anybody involved in a situation when you’re talking about a guy going through what he’s going to have to go through here,” said Twins general manager Terry Ryan, who hoped to strengthen a struggling bullpen with the high-risk, high-reward reliever. “It’s a personal decision between his family and people he confides in and so forth.”
Zumaya was hurt throwing his first session of batting practice after just 13 pitches Saturday. He said he had little doubt after the injury that the diagnosis would be dire.
“I was trying to be so optimistic, but I knew. I knew right away,” Zumaya said. “I’ve been told. I’ve asked people, ‘How does it feel? What are your instincts? What happens?’ Basically right when I came off the field, I just felt that my arm was gone.”
Zumaya has spent much more time rehabbing injuries the last several seasons than showing off that 100 mph-plus heat. After gaining attention as a rookie for the 2006 AL champion Tigers, he has pitched in just 109 games over the last six years while dealing with foot, shoulder, elbow and finger problems.
“People who throw as hard as me … you’re injury prone, you know?” Zumaya said. “It’s just hard, man. I guess you’re not meant to throw a pitch as hard as I do. My arm’s been through some stuff.”
Zumaya has spoken with other pitchers who’ve had ligament-replacement surgery to help with his decision.
“Last night, it was weird,” Zumaya said. “I probably got like 100 text messages from quite a few teammates, ex-teammates, Tigers, quite a few friends that I played baseball around with.”
Zumaya remained on Minnesota’s 40-man roster, but Ryan said a decision hadn’t yet been made on Zumaya’s future with the club if he were to decide to have the surgery.
Zumaya, meanwhile, has already started considering about other potential careers.
“I’m a pretty dang good fisherman, so I might pursue professional fishing,” Zumaya said with a shrug.
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