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Joel Zumaya Injury: If Elbow Pain Is Serious, There's Not Many Options For Replacement

The Minnesota Twins are dealing with injury concerns and the season hasn't even begun. It's no surprise that the injury concerns are related to Joel Zumaya and some right elbow pain. There's no news just yet on the severity of the injury, as MRI results are expected on Sunday. Zumaya was set to be a big part of the Twins' rotation, as a bridge between the starters and closers in the seventh and eighth innings.

Unfortunately, the Twins don't necessarily have anybody ready to step into that role if Zumaya's injury turns out to be a serious one. He's had two surgeries on the right elbow in the past, and could have a long way to go in recovering from a potential third. With 33 pitchers set for camp, the Twins still don't have anyone with quite the ability (or rather, proven ability) to step into his role.

ESPN Twin Cities took a look at the potential replacements and came up with the same diagnosis: it's not looking good.

But of all the pitchers mentioned above, only Duensing, Bulger, Vasquez, Swarzak and Burton have thrown more than 120 career innings in the major leagues. Most of Burton's came prior to 2010, and most of Bulger's came three seasons ago, in 2009. ... There's a difference between a serviceable sixth-inning reliever and a reliever who can shut down top lineups in the seventh and eighth innings as a bridge to Matt Capps. Zumaya, if healthy, can shut down good lineups.

Anthony Swarzak is likely the guy they'll really look at to step up, along with Jared Burton, Brian Duensing, and Alex Burnett. Those are guys that general manager Terry Ryan has said are the guys most likely to step up. Unfortunately, none of them really inspire confidence in that vein.

In short, the Twins really need Zumaya to be healthy, and if he has to miss time, it really needs to be a short amount. It's possible that somebody steps up and things get going better than expected, but it's not the likeliest of scenarios.

For more on the Minnesota Twins, check out Twinkie Town. You can also head over to SB Nation's main MLB hub at Baseball Nation.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.