DETROIT -- Joel Zumaya pitched a 1-2-3 inning Thursday night. He would not get a chance to duplicate that performance the next evening against the Athletics.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Friday afternoon he didn't want to pitch his young, oft-injured fireballer on back-to-back days. He would only use him in an emergency. With his bullpen going through a tough stretch, the skipper doesn't want to overwork one of its key components.
"I'm going to watch him, watch him real close," Leyland said. "I'll be careful with him."
For good reason.
Zumaya recently experienced tightness in his right triceps late last month. This coming after he missed 2 1/2 months following a rare shoulder surgery. He also spent 1 1/2 months on the disabled list last season with a finger strain.
Other than Thursday night's appearance, Zumaya's return to the bullpen has been turbulent and the effects of the injury are evident.
On Tuesday, he recorded a blown save after allowing four runs on three hits in two thirds of an inning.
Over his last seven outings, Zumaya has allowed nine runs on 10 hits in 10 innings -- not the kind of performance Tigers fans have become accustomed to since the 23-year-old splashed into the Major Leagues in 2006.
Zumaya represents a leg of Detroit's closing tripod. Leyland said he would not use Fernando Rodney "under any circumstances," thus making Kyle Farnsworth Friday's closer by default.
That might be the way it works for the rest of the season.
Leyland doesn't have a problem doing it that way, as long as each pitcher succeeds when called upon. He needs his late-inning rotation to synchronize into a functional unit. Otherwise, it could turn into the latest headache for Leyland in this head-scratching season.
He said, ideally, he wants to have one reliever step up and become the closer. Until then, he will mix and match.
As for Zumaya, he probably won't pitch on consecutive days until the tightness in his arm subsides. The sooner the better. If the Tigers are going to climb back into the postseason race, they need a healthy Zumaya available in the bullpen.
Scott McNeish is an associate reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.