Zumaya unsure if he will undergo surgery
Reliever has already rehabbed from multiple operations on arm
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A day after learning he tore his ulnar collateral ligament, Twins right-hander Joel Zumaya said Monday he still hasn't decided whether he'll undergo Tommy John surgery to continue his career.
Zumaya, 27, has already undergone two elbow surgeries, two shoulder surgeries and finger surgery since making his debut with the Tigers in 2006, and he isn't sure if he wants to undergo another one. And even if Zumaya does opt to have the surgery, he's still not sure if he'll try to make yet another comeback.
"That's going to be a family decision," Zumaya said. "Right now, perspective is probably not. I know I'm young, but I'm going to probably be going on six surgeries if I get another one. I'm only 27 years old and I've taken a lot of wear and tear on my body, especially my arm, and then rehab -- it's a lot out of you. So I have a little 2 1/2-year-old; maybe it's time to move on. I'm a pretty dang good fisherman, so I might pursue professional fishing."
Zumaya, who tore the ligament while throwing a curveball to catcher Drew Butera during his first live throwing session of the spring on Saturday, said he expects to inform Twins general manager Terry Ryan of his decision soon.
"My mind isn't quite clear yet," Zumaya said. "I went home, tried to make a decision -- I've got my family here with me -- but it's a tough decision, so I'm going to go on within the next day or two and make a decision. I spoke to Terry and told him that I'll probably give him a call within the next 24 hours to determine if I'm going to [have surgery] or not."
Zumaya met with Ryan early Monday morning to talk about his options regarding the surgery. If he decides to have the operation, he could rehab near his home in Orlando, Fla., or at the club's Spring Training complex in Fort Myers.
As of now, Zumaya is still on the club's 40-man roster, as the Twins could opt to release him or place him on the 60-day disabled list. Only $400,000 of the one-year, $850,000 deal he signed this offseason is guaranteed.
"It was just general information," Ryan said of the meeting. "He's ultimately going to make a decision on which way to go, and then we'll support it. It's tough for anybody involved in a situation when you're talking about a guy going through what he's going to have to go through here. It's a personal decision between his family and people he confides in and so forth."
Zumaya received more than 100 texts from family members and friends, including many of his former Tigers teammates.
He said he's been leaning on his family the last few days, while also asking players about the surgery, including former Tigers pitcher Jason Grilli, who had a similar situation with previous elbow surgeries before ultimately undergoing Tommy John surgery.
"He almost had the same thing as me, elbow surgery and then he had Tommy John," Zumaya said. "So I've been speaking to him, and literally just asking him, 'What's the deal?' The majority of those guys, they said if you get the Tommy John, your chances of coming back are even stronger. I don't know yet. But like I said, it's going to be a couple days before I make this decision and go on about my business."
Zumaya said he could tell right away that he tore his UCL during his throwing session on Saturday. He left after just 13 pitches, as he tried to throw a few pitches despite discomfort stemming from a curveball he threw to Butera.
"Like everybody says, man, it takes one pitch," Zumaya said. "I was feeling fine. I was throwing quite hard, so the way things were going -- my side sessions, getting to face batters -- was just leaning toward doing fantastic. So it took one pitch; it was one pitch. It bit pretty hard, and I continued trying to throw and you could just tell, I lost velocity, I was trying to get it over the plate. I tried to man up, I tried to do it. Quite a few guys were behind the cage, and a lot of people watching, so I didn't want to just walk off the field like that."
It was the latest setback for Zumaya, who has been through his fair share of injuries since coming up with the Tigers as a rookie sensation in 2006, when he posted a 1.94 ERA with 97 strikeouts in 83 1/3 innings.
Since that rookie season, Zumaya has dealt with a finger injury that forced him to miss 96 games in 2007, a shoulder injury in '08 that cost him 72 games and another shoulder injury in '08 that caused him to miss 41 games before undergoing shoulder surgery in '09.
Zumaya, who routinely hit 100 mph on the radar gun when healthy, admitted his arm simply couldn't handle that velocity.
"Like I said from the beginning, I believe 100 is overrated," Zumaya said. "People that throw as hard as me, you're injury-prone. It's hard, man. I guess you're not meant to throw a baseball as hard as I do. This year I worked my tail off the whole year. That's probably why I got picked up. I was throwing the ball great and just these things, these little things happen, and they pop up. You can't fight them. You can't do anything about them, especially Tommy John."