DETROIT (AP) – With the California wildfires closing in on his parents’ house, Joel Zumaya went up to the attic and tried to salvage a few things for his father.

Moments later, his 2008 season was in jeopardy.

A heavy box fell on top of the Detroit Tigers reliever, injuring his pitching shoulder and forcing him to have major surgery Wednesday in San Diego. He is expected to be sidelined until midseason.

“You think he’ll be back, but I can’t 100 percent count on that,” Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said Thursday. “We can’t count on that contribution this year. We have to plan our staff without him being there.”

The Tigers hoped to re-sign closer Todd Jones, with the understanding that he might lose his job later in the season to Zumaya. If they weren’t able to bring back the free agent, Zumaya had a shot to be Detroit’s closer.

“Now, we can’t count on that,” Dombrowski said. “If it’s not Todd, we have to be aggressive to find somebody to pitch on the back end.”

An e-mail seeking comment was sent to Jones.

Zumaya is being told to rest his shoulder for six weeks and refrain from a throwing program until March.

His 100 mph fastballs helped the Tigers reach the 2006 World Series, and the giant flame tattoos on both his arms helped make him a star in the Motor City.

He told the Tigers he was injured while moving personal items Sunday.

“He said a box fell on his shoulder,” Dombrowski said. “The fires were approximately 2 miles from his home, where he lives with his parents, and his dad has a broken leg and wanted some items from the attic.

“He reached up to grab one box and a heavy one on top of it fell directly on his shoulder.

“At first, he didn’t think it was that bad,” Dombrowski added. “But the pain became more and more and that’s when Mr. Zumaya said, “We have to call the Tigers.”‘

Zumaya was limited to 28 games this year because of surgery on a tendon in his middle finger. He was 2-3 with a 4.28 ERA and the Tigers went 88-74, finishing second in the AL Central.

As a rookie in 2006, Zumaya was a big reason the Tigers won the AL pennant for the first time in more than two decades. He was 6-3 with a 1.94 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 62 appearances.

Detroit acquired All-Star shortstop Edgar Renteria earlier this week, filling a pressing need – only to find out soon after it had another void.

“My jubilation turned into a lot of concern,” Dombrowski said.

The pitcher was downtrodden, too.

“He must’ve apologized, in a five-minute conversation, 25 times,” Dombrowski said.

AP-ES-11-01-07 1722EDT

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.