Tigers (10-9) at Rangers (8-10)
There was a time, before the Tigers returned to relevance, that Jeremy Bonderman was the 20 year old phenom. In his first season in the big leagues, the then flame-throwing right hander made the club out of Spring Training and learned on the job. That season was 2003 and Bonderman suffered through a 19-loss campaign for the worst team in American League history.
Fast forward eight seasons and Bonderman is a grizzled veteran, trying to pick up his teammates after another rough start from last year’s 20 year old phenom, Rick Porcello.
Coming into 2010, the strength of the Tigers team was supposed to have been the starting rotation. By most accounts, the top three of Justin Verlander, Porcello, and Max Scherzer had the talent to keep the team in contention all year long, and if they could get any help from Bonderman and Dontrelle Willis, the Tigers might have enough to win the division.
But apart from Scherzer, the top of the rotation has been brutal at times, and never better than okay. The bottom two have each made three starts, four of the six total have been what one would consider good ones, each hurler tossing just one clunker.
The Tigers turn again to Bonderman to rebound from another bad outing. In his last start, Bonderman halted a four loss in five game stretch with six solid innings at Los Angeles. With the Tigers having lost two of three in Texas, Detroit needs a win tonight to close out a brutal road trip with a 5-6 mark.
More than that, the Tigers need Bonderman work deep into tonight’s game.
The already overworked Tigers ‘pen was forced into action from the jump in an 8-4 victory on Saturday night, thanks to an illness to Willis, the scheduled starter. After working all nine innings in that game, the bullpen was used heavily once again yesterday as Porcello couldn’t answer the bell for the fifth.
And no, I won’t make much of the disaster inning that Willis threw in that game. He was obviously still recovering from the flu and was pitching in a role he was unaccustomed to. Willis walked three and allowed two runs in his one inning relief appearance, he is on schedule to make his start versus the Twins on Thursday.
The Tigers offense hasn’t been an issue early in games lately, and they’ll have a chance to do some more damage tonight against Rangers lefty Matt Harrison. Harrison was pounded twice in two starts against the Tigers last season. He is coming off a bad start versus Boston (4 IP, 6 ER) and was 0-2 with an ERA of 7.59 versus Detroit last year.
There has been a lot of talk early this year about how this Tigers team reminds of the 2006 campaign, when Detroit came from obscurity to win the AL pennant, but this team so far looks a lot more like the 2007 version, when a pitching staff that was supposed to carry the team back to the playoffs became a liability instead.
A big early-season test looms with a three game set against the Twins starting tomorrow. Once again, the Tigers play a get-away game at night this evening, ahead of the night game tomorrow. Jeremy Bonderman is called upon to keep the Tigers afloat heading into that matchup. If he can go seven and get the bullpen back in order, he’ll improve his clubs chances in the next series. If he struggles, the Tigers will limp home in bad shape.