Plenty of Tigers pitching news in the past 24 hours and none of it is particularly surprising. First up, both Coke and Porcello were signed to one-year deals to avoid salary arbitration. I think the only remotely surprising part of this was that Porcello’s deal was only for one year given how young he is, though given his numbers, I don’t blame them. While his record isn’t bad, the 4.75 ERA is a bit high. I think the Tigers need to see a consistent year out of him before he’ll be able to pull a better contract. My hope for this season is that we’ll see more of the Porcello who came out after the rain delay and pitched two no-hit innings against the Yankees in the postseason. Finally, we have the increasingly tragic saga of Joel Zumaya, who has now signed a one-year contract with the Twins. I’ve followed Joel’s story since he debuted and there isn’t a player I’ve rooted harder for, save maybe Brandon Inge (a story for another post). I can’t even imagine listening to the world rave about your potential and immediately go through the endless string of injuries that he has suffered. 2010 looked so promising before the horrifying elbow fracture in June (and having witnessed it on television that night, believe me when I tell you that “horrifying” may be an understatement), then Spring Training in 2011 came with such hope before everything fell apart again.
I will always root for Joel because his attitude impresses me. It would have been so easy to give up after the last surgery, or each surgery before that, but he didn’t, and he’s now found a team that wants to give him a shot. Would I rather him be with us than the Twins? Hell yes. But I understand both sides of the situation. He’s proven he can be a great pitcher when he’s healthy and he desperately wanted a guaranteed roster spot going into Spring. I get that. I also get the Tigers position, which was apparently the position of a few other teams who showed interest, which was that they wouldn’t guarantee anything until they saw him in Spring Training. Mario Impemba wrote a wonderful piece about Joel this week and mused that “the one thing that struck me about Zumaya’s style was that he possessed one of the most maximum-effort deliveries this side of Troy Percival”. If you’ve watched him pitch at any point in his career, you know this is true. You know what it is like to wonder how his arm doesn’t break right off his body with every pitch. The Tigers have invested a lot in his health. I think they truly like him as a person (he did throw out an opening pitch in the playoffs, after all) and wanted to give him a chance, but I think they’re also appropriately wary about his durability. And so, as he takes a position with the greatest rival in our division, I’ll still follow his career closely and genuinely root for him all the way, because I don’t see how you can’t. Unless he starts blowing 100+ fastballs by our guys. Then I may need to seriously re-evaluate the situation.