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March 5, 2010

BP Unfiltered

Tigers-Astros, 3/4

by John Perrotto

LAKELAND, Fla. _ Some news, notes and observations from the Tigers' 17-7 victory over the Astros on Friday at Joker Marchant Stadium":

--Joel Zumaya was a rookie sensation in 2006, coming out of the Tigers' bullpen and pumping 100-mph fastballs in helping Detroit to its first American League pennant in 22 years.  Zumaya had a 1.94 ERA and 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings in 83 1/3 innings.  However, he has been dogged by shoulder problems since and pitched a combined 88 innings from 2007-09.

Zumaya is fully healthy this spring, though, and he looked like his hard-throwing self Friday despite giving up three runs in two innings. The runs allowed really didn't matter on this day as the winds often swirled on a sunny afternoon with a high sky.

"You can't really look at stats down here," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "You can see more balls get taken by the wind or lost in the sun in one day in spring training than you will all season. On days like this, it really isn't baseball. All you want to get out of it is for guys to get their arms and legs in shape."

Leyland, though, would love to have the '06 version of Zumaya in his bullpen this season.

"Right now, he's like a bull on a chain," Leyland said. "He's all amped up because he's healthy again and he's trying to throw the ball 1,000 mph to show everyone he's healthy. He's trying to prove he belongs in the big leagues but he'll calm down. The fans love him. We love him. He doesn't have anything to prove."

Leyland also made an interesting point about Zumaya, saying he should pitch strictly in the upper part of the strike zone.

"I know it goes against everything you hear about how important it is to pitch down in the zone but that doesn't work with a guy like Joel," Leyland said. "Because he throws so hard, when he throws the ball down, left-handers just drop the bat head down and get hits. If he works up in the zone, it's hard for hitters to get on top of his fastball."

--First-year Astros manager Brad Mills, the first Terry Francona disciple to become a big-league skipper, shows the same positive attitude of his mentor. Mills actually found plenty of good in giving up 17 runs because it gave his team a chance to work on some new cutoff plays.

"It was a situation where they can put into action what we're trying to teach and understand why we feel strongly about what we're trying to do," Mills said.

--The Tigers and Astros also played a "B game in the morning and Jacob Turner, Detroit's first-round draft pick last year, stole the show. Turner is just 19 but he is already making some Tigers' people think he could follow in Rick Porcello's footsteps and   making his major-league debut when he is 20.

--Finally, don't expect Leyland to follow White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen into the world of Twitter. "I don't know anything about Twister or Twitter or twittering or tweeting or whatever it's called," the old-school skipper said.

John Perrotto is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see John's other articles. You can contact John by clicking here

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