Sunday, February 26, 2012

First Injury Paper Doll of 2012: Joel Zumaya

I didn't intend to start up the paper doll machine until the season started. After all, the point of it is to show who's been put on the Disabled List, and they don't really do that during Spring Training. But this one is a special case because ... well, I just feel so darned bad for him.

Joel Zumaya tore his right ulnar collateral ligament of the elbow (UCL) while throwing a bullpen session on Saturday. It was reported that right before the fatal pitch, he was "throwing gas."

The UCL is the Tommy John Surgery ligament. This is the ligament that attaches to the humerus (upper arm bone) to the ulna (the inside forearm bone). And, surprisingly, of all the arm injuries Zumaya has suffered, his UCL was fine. Until that one pitch.

The Twins knew they were taking a risk when they signed him. This is why they structured the contract so that he would only make $400,000 if he didn't make the team out of Spring Training. Now he'll be out for at least a year.

Now he has a big decision to make. He doesn't really need to go through a major surgery and all that difficult rehab. But if he ever wants to pitch again, he does. This decision is kind of a no-brainer for most pitchers, but I don't think it will be for him. He's already had several arm surgeries -- he missed all of last year after having surgery to replace the screw they put in to set the broken arm he suffered in 2010 (apparently the screw was too big, and the broken arm was suffered mid-throw while pitching to Delmon Young at Target Field). And in the previous four years, he never appeared in more than 29 games. In fact, his only "regular" year was his rookie year of 2006.

It's hard to say why he's so injury prone. I do wonder if his mechanics, or his tendency to throw unbelievable heat, have something to do with it. Maybe he's simply not built to throw 99 MPH. Although, if I remember correctly, he had two injuries that had nothing to do with baseball (his wrist due to over-playing the video game Guitar Hero, and straining his shoulder by ... I think ... helping his buddy move furniture).  Going through all that, and all the rehabilitation that goes with all that is huge. Having to do it all over again might just be too much.

Too bad. I was really looking forward to seeing him pitch. But more than that, I feel bad for him on a personal level. He was reported to be distraught -- understandably. The poor guy just wants to play baseball.

I want give him a hug.

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