Zumaya sharp in first rehab outing

Zumaya sharp in first rehab outing

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Joel Zumaya tossed two innings of relief for Class A Lakeland on Tuesday night, throwing 24 pitches (18 for strikes) and topping out at 101 mph on the radar gun at Joker Marchant Stadium.

"It felt OK, still have that little hump I have to get over," he said. "I'm not quite there yet, but tonight was a very, very positive outing. It's been a while since I've thrown the ball like that."

Detroit's setup man last season, Zumaya is ahead of schedule after having surgery last fall to repair the A/C joint in his right shoulder.

The flamethrower was also hampered by injuries last year, as Zumaya appeared in just 28 games after surgery on his right middle finger. After missing more than three months, he finished 2-3 with a 4.28 ERA out of the Tigers bullpen.

"To hear that [radar speed] was real nice," a smiling Zumaya said, adding that he did not try to force his velocity. "I try not to look at the radar gun back there. I was just trying to throw strikes and get a feel for the mound.

"It's been almost a year since I've thrown off a mound with my finger situation and the shoulder. Other than that, it was just a matter of getting my legs adjusted to the mound and driving off like I usually do."

In his final extended spring outing on Saturday, Zumaya's fastball topped out around 97 mph, but was more often around 95. Although the Flying Tigers' radar may be several mph off, Zumaya's fastball was still humming enough to average 99 and stun Sarasota batters in the game's seventh and eighth innings.

After going 0-2 to his leadoff batter, Zumaya gave up a double down the right-field line -- the lone hit he allowed -- before retiring the side with a strikeout and a pair of groundouts in the seventh inning. Zumaya faced seven total batters, issuing one walk in the eighth inning.

Zumaya admitted that he didn't think extended spring work helped get him "game ready" and was relieved to receive the assignment to join Lakeland.

"It went pretty well today," he said. "So let's hope the next outing is just like it."

Tigers manager Jim Leyland said over the weekend that Zumaya would at least begin his assignment with the Flying Tigers, but could soon make the move up to Triple-A Toledo. If all goes well, the right-hander could rejoin the Major League club sometime this month.

For now, Zumaya said he has "no idea" of his future timetable, adding that he doesn't even receive specific pitching assignments until that day. He was, however, pleased with all of his pitches on Tuesday night, including his changeup, which Zumaya said he has been focused on improving all season.

Although doctors originally expected Zumaya back no sooner than the All-Star break, there is no case history for the procedure he underwent among pitchers, making the timetable more of a rough estimate.

"This injury, it took a lot out of me," Zumaya said. "I've been told by everybody, 'Don't rush back. Don't rush back, take your time,' and that's what I've been doing. And obviously I'm way [further] back then expected, but I've been following what I've had to do, and it's been working.

"A lot of people told me I probably wouldn't be able to go out and do what I did tonight. So I'm pretty pumped to be able and go back and be one of the guys."

Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.