SEATTLE -- Joel Zumaya's ability to pitch multiple innings has been a huge reason why the Tigers' bullpen has had so much success this season. But those two-inning -- and sometimes longer -- outings from Zumaya could be nearing an end, shifting back toward the single-inning role he had in years past.
"I think it's worked out pretty good," said manager Jim Leyland, "but at some point, you want to get it down to one inning if you can, maybe four outs or something like that."
The multi-inning role Zumaya became accustomed to has been a way for Leyland to work his arm sensibly, stretching out his arm rather than trying to heat it up on frequent days. Twelve of the right-hander's 18 outings this season lasted longer than three outs, and two other appearances saw him enter in one inning and continue into the next. Eight of Zumaya's outings lasted at least 25 pitches.
Zumaya recorded two outs on four pitches Tuesday against the Mariners.
Impressively, Zumaya has maintained his velocity throughout the season. His average fastball velocity of 99.1 mph is far and away the highest in the league, according to fangraphs.com, but several of his triple-digit fastballs have come after his first inning of work in recent outings.
It was all part of the Tigers' plan for Zumaya to get his arm in shape after three consecutive injury-shortened seasons. The next step is to settle him back into a more traditional one-inning role.
"To be honest with you, early on, I think it was probably pretty good for him," Leyland said. "Because he hadn't pitched in a while, I think it was pretty good for him to get out to the mound. I don't think that's any different right now, but I'd say shortly we want to just go one inning if we can."