Notes: Zumaya has MRI exam

Notes: Zumaya has MRI exam

KANSAS CITY -- Joel Zumaya remembers two pitches, two pops, and then nothing but pain. He's hoping his 2007 season didn't just burst with it.

"It was really weird," he recalled of his right finger injury Saturday night. "I was warming up already, and then we gained the lead, and I started cranking it up. The first fastball I threw, I heard a loud pop. It was in my [right middle] finger, and I thought maybe my knuckle cracked.

"Went to a curveball, couldn't even grip the ball. Threw another fastball and it popped again, and then this sharp pain just ran through my finger."

With that, the list of Tigers injuries took a potentially devastating turn for the worse. While the Tigers spent Sunday waiting for test results on Zumaya's right middle finger, manager Jim Leyland was left to ponder how to replace him.

The Tigers have listed Zumaya's injury as a strain. He was taken to an area hospital Sunday morning for an MRI exam, but head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said they won't have definitive diagnosis until he visits with hand specialist Dr. Charles Melone on Monday in New York.

The Tigers can't establish a timetable for Zumaya until they determine the exact injury, whether it's a simple strain or it involves more extensive damage to bones or tendons in the joint. Neither Leyland nor Zumaya, whose finger felt as bad Sunday afternoon as it did Saturday night, seemed particularly optimistic.

"I don't want to have fears. I don't want to have hopes right now," said Zumaya, his finger in a splint. "I just want to go up there and get the word. It's really swollen right now. I have a sharp pain in it, so it's obviously not feeling good."

As of Sunday, Leyland was expecting a long absence, though planning for that is part of his job as a manager.

"If I had to be a guessing man," Leyland said, "I would guess that it's not very good. I don't think this is going to be a very good situation. But, I'm hoping I get a pleasant surprise."

The fact that such an injury could happen is somewhat baffling to the Tigers staff and Zumaya himself. Leyland said he had never seen anything like it for a pitcher to pop his finger while warming up. It was relatively new for the Tigers training staff, too. Zumaya said he believes it had something to do with the torque in his motion and not the tight grip he puts on the ball.

After all the talk he endured last year about his video-game habits and its effect on his arm, and all the work he put in over the offseason to strengthen his wrist, another strange injury was the last thing he wanted to hear.

"To tell you the truth, it felt like I dislocated it," Zumaya said. "It was just a loud pop, and then it popped again. It was just a really odd feeling. So the first thing I could think of was my finger popped out of place. That's where I went from there, but some other things were involved, and that's why I got the MRI today.

"The second time it popped, just that sharp pain that ran through my finger, it wasn't a pleasant feeling."

Zumaya spent Sunday afternoon standing up and pacing around, watching the game on television in the clubhouse.

The severity of the injury and how long Zumaya is out, Leyland said, will affect how the Tigers try to replace him. For now, the Tigers called up Aquilino Lopez once Zumaya went on the DL. Lopez arrived at Kauffman Stadium on Sunday morning.

Fernando Rodney, who was generally alternating days with Zumaya to protect leads or keep games close in the eighth inning, is expected to take the bulk of the work. However, Leyland said it would take a group effort to mix and match relievers according to the situation. At one point Sunday morning, he called the remaining relievers into his office for a brief meeting.

"What we want to do is ... try to find out the significance of the injury," Leyland said. "and then make a decision on somebody that would be a longer-term or a shorter-term guy. If this injury is more significant, which I'm assuming it probably is, then we'll weigh all our factors on how we'll re-establish our pitching staff a little bit, whether we bring up some starter or go a different way with a reliever."

One pitcher who is expected to pick up work with Zumaya out is Jose Mesa, whose one-batter appearance Saturday was his first game action since coming off the 15-day disabled list.

"One of the reasons we signed Mesa," Leyland said, "was to have another veteran guy who could pitch in certain situations. Obviously, he'll probably be getting more opportunities to see what he can do."

If the Tigers did call up another starter, it would seem to indicate they would fill the rotation from the back end with a long man, either the pitcher they called up or by bumping somebody from the rotation. Chad Durbin, who made his sixth start of the season Sunday, originally made the team as a long reliever before moving into the rotation when Kenny Rogers landed on the disabled list. However, Durbin also held the Royals scoreless for seven innings Sunday while facing one batter over the minimum before giving up a two-run eighth.

Run producer: Magglio Ordonez's two RBIs on Saturday put him within two of Angels slugger Vladimir Guerrero for second in the American League entering Sunday's action. Alex Rodriguez leads the league with 37.

Coming up: The Tigers have Monday off before returning to action for a quick home series against the Mariners at Comerica Park. Jeremy Bonderman (1-0, 3.69 ERA) will take the mound for Tuesday's series opener opposite lefty Horacio Ramirez (2-1, 6.64 ERA). Game time is 7:05 p.m. ET.

Jason Beck is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.