BY LA VELLE E. NEAL III, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
1:05 AM PST, January 16, 2012
The Twins and Joel Zumaya have reached agreement on a one-year contract for $800,000, with incentives that could add another $900,000 to the deal. A Major League Baseball official on Sunday confirmed the deal, which was initially reported by MLB.com.
The Twins have been careful to announce deals until after the player passes a physical.
Zumaya, 27, has thrown ridiculously hard fastballs during his career, which had been with the Tigers until now. But he also has been hindered by injuries, including on at Target Field on June 28, 2010, where he suffered a broken right elbow while throwing a pitch to the Twins' Delmon Young. Fans were in stunned silence as Zumaya dropped to the ground but applauded him as he left the field.
A day later, Zumaya showed his appreciation.
"The way people reacted last night toward my injury and the way they made me feel, especially my teammates, I was breathless," he said. "I cried in front of 40,000 people (which) was pretty weak. I was in a lot of pain and I felt like I had no one on my side.
"These people got up on their feet and started cheering about what was going on. Especially the team. I had the whole team in there comforting me. It meant a lot to me."
Because of his history, the Twins might be even more cautious about Zumaya's physical. But they were one of many teams in attendance in Houston last month when Zumaya worked out. He hit 92-95 miles per hour on the radar gun and looked free and easy while doing it, according to scouts in attendance that day.
For a Twins team in serious need of bullpen firepower, Zumaya is a low-risk, high-reward move. The Twins payroll entered the new year at around $98 million, with the club sending out strong signals that they had little, if any, flexibility. Zumaya apparently is worth the risk.
In 2006, he threw a fastball at Oakland that hit 103 mph on the radar gun. Later that year, he threw one in Detroit that hit 104.
In 2009 and 2010, Zumaya's fastball averaged 99.3 mph, according to FanGraphs.com.
Can he return to his uber-flamethrowing days? That remains to be seen, but Zumaya is on the verge of getting a chance to do that with the Twins.
Staff writer Joe Christensen contributed to this report.
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