TigsTown Roundtable: Zumaya; Rotation or Pen?

Ready to talk Tigers? Want to hear the opinion of the TigsTown staff on some of the hot button topics of the offseason? Welcome to the TigsTown Roundtable! This week's question: If a rotation spot opens up, should the Tigers consider converting Joel Zumaya back to a starter?

Paul Wezner, Senior Editor
While it's hard to ignore the possibilities of putting Joel Zumaya in the rotation, I think the clear move has to be keeping him in the bullpen and continuing to groom him as the team's next closer. There is of course the argument that someone as dominant as Zumaya is should be used for as many inning as possible, thus maximizing his value to the club. On the other hand, he's never been able to stay healthy over a full season as a starter, and in addition to that, his violent motion is not as likely to result in injury if he's not pitching six or seven innings every fifth day. But ultimately, it comes down to one thing; Zumaya wants to stay in the bullpen. He likes the late inning pressure, and he has the bulldog mentality to go after the best hitters in the game with the game on the line (see last season's divisional series against the Yankees in New York). Zumaya is a reliever, and there's no point in trying to change that.

Mark Anderson, Associate Editor, Minor Leagues
That depends; do the Tigers actually want to have him available to pitch for more than a year or two at the big league level? I don't really see any reasonable assertion as to why the Tigers should consider moving Zumaya back to the rotation. Not only do they have a litany of other well-qualified candidates (Ledezma, Tata, Miner, Bazardo, Miller, Durbin, Jurrjens, Vasquez, etc.), but they have found a role in which Zumaya is completely dominant. Aside from his nifty 37-inning stint in the GCL in 2002, Zumaya has never made it through an entire professional season without injury or concern over injury. In 2003, he suffered from significant back issues and missed several starts at West Michigan. In 2004, he suffered from shoulder fatigue and mild pain that cut his debut at Erie short. In 2005, he ran into similar troubles at AAA-Toledo; and in 2006, his wrist flared up from a combination of excessive video game playing and an insanely tight grip on the ball. Despite his progress and relative success at the minor league level, in a starter's role, I don't see much to suggest he could handle the switch back to the rotation at this time. He's found a role where he is immeasureably valuable to the team, incredibly dominant against both lefties and righties, and a role he thoroughly enjoys thriving in. The only way the Tigers should consider moving him back to the rotation is if 6-8 pitchers go down with injuries, no trade partners are available, and they're convinced they can find someone just as dominating who is capable of locking down multiple late innings if necessary. He's an elite closer in waiting; let's not screw that up.

Jason Avery, Associate Editor, Amateur Baseball
I'd leave Zumaya in the bullpen. He's had a history of missing time during his stint as a starter in the minors and when you couple that with his delivery, I don't think he would hold up. I also think that if you take him out of the bullpen, that's a significant loss, because with Zumaya, Rodney and Jones, you can shorten the game to six or seven innings. Not to mention, the Tigers have other guys who can shoulder the load. Zach Miner and Wil Ledezma did it last year, and those are definite options. Andrew Miller, if he makes nice progress during the year is another candidate. I don't think you take Zumaya out of his comfort zone to fill that need when you have several options in house.

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