Paul Wezner, Executive Editor
The fact that this is even worthy of being a question is worrisome, in that his status is constantly that up in the air. At this point, Joel won't be ready for Opening Day, and if this neck soreness turns out to be anything more than a minor setback, I'd say it's a stretch to say we will see him at any point in April. Assuming no more setbacks pop (far from a certainty though), I think we'll see Joel return to Detroit sometime in early May, with the bullpen not completely collapsing yet, but teetering on the edge and potentially falling down the same path they took in '08. The Tigers have a weekend home series in the first weekend in May, and with the Indians likely to rebound in my opinion, I think we'll likely see Zoom return sometime during that series with a home crowd behind him. How long he lasts, who knows.
Mark Anderson, Managing Editor
The annual call for Joel Zumaya to be back on the mound; it is almost like this has become an annual right of spring training for the Tigers. Joel Zumaya was spectacular in 2006. Nobody can doubt this. However, I think it might be time for Tiger fans to seriously consider not expecting any further dominating performances out of him. From the back and shoulder issues that plagued his minor league career, to the exploding finger tendon, boxes falling on his shoulder, and continued soreness, inflammation, and a stress fracture in his shoulder, there's just so much injury history with Zumaya, that you can't count on him in any capacity. With a stress fracture and soreness in the shoulder dogging him this spring, I'm concerned that we may not actually see him on the mound in Comerica Park in 2009. While that seems extreme on the surface, I really don't think its out of line. That said, at some point, if he's able to throw a ball without pain, I am certain the organization will push him back to Detroit; particularly if the bullpen is struggling. I think that may happen sometime in June -- for the sake of the roundtable question, let's say June 17th -- but I do think his mound presence will be short lived and he will be back on rehab with his career potentially in danger of ever truly being resurrected.
Jason Avery, Associate Editor, Amateur Baseball
I think Joel Zumaya will make his debut on May 1. When you factor in that he's already listed as doubtful for the opener, and hasn't thrown since March 2, it's going to take some time to see if his shoulder responds to treatment before he can even be cleared to play catch.
Once/if that happens, I would expect the Tigers to keep Zumaya in extended spring training to allow him to get as many opportunities to pitch, particularly on consecutive days to see how the shoulder responds.
If all goes well, I would guess that April would serve as Zumaya's spring training, and the Tigers would hopefully have him by May, but nothing can begin until his shoulder begins to feel better.
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