Emotionally-drained Joel Zumaya says, 'Maybe it's time to move on'
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Two days after tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his already surgically-repaired right elbow, Minnesota Twins reliever Joel Zumaya shook hands with teammates and coaches in the Hammond Stadium clubhouse early Monday morning.
For the 27-year-old Zumaya to return to baseball, he would need to undergo Tommy John surgery to repair the ligament -- a procedure that would mark the sixth significant operation on his arm since 2007.
As of Monday, Zumaya hadn't made any decisions about his future, but he's said he's leaning toward moving on.
"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."
General manager Terry Ryan said Zumaya remains on the Twins' 40-man roster as of right now, but added he'll have "decisions to make" when Zumaya eventually chooses between surgery or retirement. It's still possible Zumaya could rehab as a Twin.
Full Zumaya Q&A
Have you made a decision as to whether you want to continue your career, or undergo Tommy John surgery?
"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. 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."
You threw a 13-pitch live session -- when did you feel it tear?
"Like everybody says, man, it takes one pitch. 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."
So this is isn't about surgery, it's about whether you want to play, right?
"That's going to be a family decision. 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-and-a-half-year-old; maybe it's time to move on. ...
"I'm a pretty dang good fisherman, so I might pursue professional fishing. Yeah."
Did you have a pretty good feeling before the MRI?
"Pretty sure, yeah, I was trying to be so optimistic, but I knew -- I knew right away. I've been told; I've asked people, 'How does it feel? What are your instincts? What happens?' Basically right when I came off the field, I just felt that my arm was gone. The next thing was get an MRI and figure it out, and right away I came in yesterday and it was pretty much positive, that my arm was gone."
Do you ever wonder if a special arm like yours just can't handle physically throwing as hard as you do?
"Like I said from the beginning, I believe 100 (miles per hour) is overrated. 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. Like I said, my arm's been through some stuff -- five surgeries, a couple of elbows, shoulder, finger. 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."
Who else will you lean to besides your family?
"Well last night, it was weird, I've probably got 100 text messages from quite a few teammates, ex-teammates, from Tigers, quite a few friends that I've played around baseball with, and quite a few of them have gotten Tommy John. One of them is Jason Grilli. He almost had the same thing as me, elbow surgery and then he had Tommy John. 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."
You've had so much going on with your arm, it's got to be incredibly frustrating. But Tommy John brings guys back stronger...
"That's the 50% about it. It's encouraging, you know. It's a toss-up in the air for me right now. But like I said, I've got so much running through my head right now. The negatives there and the positive is there. So falling in the middle, it's kind of hard to make a decision."
How much has Terry Ryan helped throughout this process?
"Terry's been a big help. This whole organization's been a big help. They're supportive. Like I said, I've been here probably for only two-and-a-half, three weeks. 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% supportive right now. I need that."