Joel Zumaya

David Goldman, Associated Press - Ap

Injuries are already piling up ... and it's not even March yet

  • Article by: LA VELLE E. NEAL III
  • Star Tribune
  • February 28, 2012 - 7:01 AM

FORT MYERS, FLA. - Two days after tearing his ulnar collateral ligament -- an injury that would force him to miss a second consecutive season -- Twins reliever Joel Zumaya said he is leaning toward retirement.

Regardless of whether he retires or not, it didn't take long for everyone in Twins spring training camp to be reminded of last year, when injuries were the common thread. The Twins haven't played their first Grapefruit League game yet, and already they are without a reliever they had hoped could solidify the bullpen.

And Zumaya isn't the only injury concern.

Luke Hughes, trying to earn a roster spot in camp, has been slowed by a sore right shoulder.

Justin Morneau reported to camp last week, and while he said he's optimistic about having a good season, he remained realistic about the possibility of concussion symptoms forcing him to retire.

For a team that led baseball last year by using the disabled list 27 times, the last thing the Twins need is a repeat.

"I don't think [Zumaya's injury] is any relation to last year," General Manager Terry Ryan said. "This was a calculated risk this year and has nothing to do with any other injury problems."

True, but it should be pointed out that a year ago Michael Cuddyer reported to camp with a wart on the bottom of his foot and Delmon Young with turf toe. The injury updates were a daily topic at camp. The Twins scrambled to be healthy by Opening Day and that didn't last a week before Tsuyoshi Nishioka suffered a broken leg. Things were never the same. The Twins' top four hitters in the batting order from Opening Day -- Denard Span, Nishioka, Joe Mauer and Morneau -- missed a combined 299 games.

All eyes this spring are on Morneau, who has had four good days of workouts.

"He's close to 100 percent," Ryan said. "He's not quite there but we're monitoring him. So far, so good. He has been participating and he looks good and is certainly in very good shape, I may add."

The Twins had hoped Zumaya would join lefthander Glen Perkins as an eighth-inning force. Zumaya arrived at Hammond Stadium on Monday and went right to Ryan's office for a meeting. He then came down and told reporters that he will have to speak with his family and do more soul-searching before making a decision on whether he wants to try to continue his career.

"Right now [the] perspective is, probably not," he said of the possibility he will try to come back from his latest injury. "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."

He's had two surgeries on his shoulder, one on his hand and two resulting from the fractured elbow he suffered in June of 2010 while throwing a pitch to Delmon Young at Target Field. Zumaya is adding all that up, and it's making him question his longevity as a flame-thrower.

"Not yet, my mind isn't quite clear yet. 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," he said. "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 get cut up or not."

The Twins signed Zumaya to a one-year $850,000 contract with incentives to earn another $900,000. But he only gets $400,000 because he didn't make the Opening Day roster.

Twins players have reached out to Zumaya to show their support. Unfortunately, they have had several seriously injured players to console over the past year.

"I've been here probably for only 2 1/2, three weeks," Zumaya said. "I don't know these guys, but some of these guys have texted me to give me their support, and tell me their wishes and their prayers are with me and my family. This whole organization, the people here, the coaches, are just 100 percent supportive right now. I need that."

Not that he doesn't have his a backup career plan.

"I'm a pretty dang good fisherman, so I might pursue professional fishing," he said.

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