Just as Joel Zumaya drew praise and hyperbole with his first session of throwing live BP at Tigers camp yesterday, Jeremy Bonderman did today.
Bonderman was one of only two American League pitchers to work over 200 innings and strike out over 200 batters in 2006, along with then-Twin Johan Santana. Since that season, however, things have been a struggle for him. An early season injury ended his 2008 campaign and he made only a handful of appearances in 2009, coming back from major surgery to remove a rib to correct a thoradic outlet problem that caused his arm to lose the life it once had.
During the Tigers winter caravan, fellow starter Justin verlander raved about the way Bondo was feeling and about how good the right hander looked while throwing in Lakeland, about a month before his teammates arrived. Today, Bonderman took the next step in regaining the rotation spot the Tigers hope he can grasp.
From Miguel Cabrera after facing Bondo in BP today: “That’s Nasty”.
As I cautioned when discussing Zumaya yesterday, we still have a long way to go, and pitchers should be ahead of hitters at this point, especially when those pitchers have already been throwing for over a month. But considering the lack of velocity he had last year, and the lack of bite on his slider, hearing high praise from such an accomplished veteran slugger is promising.
Obviously, having a healthy Bonderman would go along way toward competing with the Twins and WhiteSox in the Central race. Having the old Bonderman back would be an even bigger plus. It’s true, he still doesn’t have an effective third pitch, but if Bondo can eat close to 200 innings this year, I’ll be more than happy with a typical 14-12 record and an ERA around 4.50.
Not many teams get those numbers from a number four starter.