Bonderman Still in Play for Tigers

Word filtered out late yesterday afternoon that the New York Yankees have signed former Tigers hurler Freddy Garcia to a minor league contract. The Yankees have been seeking low cost rotation depth in hopes that one of their reclamation projects can turn into a reliable starter in the Bronx this year.

Their rotation begins with perennial Cy Young candidate CC Sabathia, but it goes south in a hurry from there. With Andy Pettitte still mulling retirement, the Yankees have Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett as starters, and will be looking to Garcia, along with recent signee Bartolo Colon to join Ivan Nova in a battle for the final starting jobs.

Garcia was a possible Tigers target earlier in the winter, but their pursuit of him ended (if it ever began) when the clubs signed right hander Brad Penny in January. Though Detroit is comfortable with the five starters they’ll open camp with, Dave Dombrowski has remained open to bringing back longtime rotation staple Jeremy Bonderman. That plan is contingent on Bonderman accepting a minor league deal with no guarantees he’ll even make the club, much less be given a chance to start.

With the Yankees snatching up Colon and Garcia, chances are good that one of the better opportunities for Bonderman has dried up. After losing what basically amounts to two full seasons with injuries, Bonderman spent the entire 2010 season in Detroit’s rotation. His fastball isn’t near as fast as it once was and his slider doesn’t have the same bite, but Bonderman pitched pretty well early for the Tigers last year. It was later in the season that he really began to struggle.

If his poor second half was due to the league figuring out his new style, he probably won’t be much better this year. But if his struggles can be chalked up to simply wearing down under the workload of a starting pitcher who hadn’t thrown a full season since 2007, he could be a good bounce-back candidate. If utilized in relief, Bonderman wouldn’t face the same issues he had while in the rotation. His lack of a quality third pitch would be muted, and he would be working in shorter bursts for far fewer innings.

Bonderman’s availability isn’t news and neither is the Tigers being willing to give him a shot in camp. But with each minor league deal signed by pitchers in Bonderman’s situation, the likelihood of a reunion with the Tigers becomes more increasing.

Crosby Healthy Again

And speaking of oft injured Tigers pitchers (no, not Joel Zumaya), TigsTown’s Mark Anderson is hearing that left hander Casey Crosby is throwing without pain. What’s more, he’s also regained his mid-90s fastball that deserted him last year. This is obviously great news for a guy who was widely regarded as the Tigers top pitching prospect just a few years back.

If Crosby can get his career back on track, he could make things interesting in the coming years. Left handers with his stuff don’t just grow on trees, but as he’s seen, there are plenty of hurdles to clear before making a major league club, much less making an impact on one. A healthy Crosby immediately slots somewhere in the organization’s top five prospects (still behind Jacob Turner, probably ahead of Andy Oliver) and he’s still just 23 years old.

Anderson offered a guess that Crosby would begin the year at High-A Lakeland and would be watched closely in terms of pitch counts. If he shows himself healthy, expect him to rise rapidly through the system this year.

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Topics: Bartolo Colon, Casey Crosby, Detroit Tigers, Freddy Garcia, Jeremy Bonderman, New York Yankees

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