One of the biggest storylines as the Major League Baseball trade deadline approaches at the end of the month is the state of the Detroit Tigers bullpen. Ever since Jose Valverde imploded in the playoff last season, the national media has been banging the “Tigers need a closer” drum. While it looks like Joaquin Benoit has silenced that cry, there is little doubt the team would like to add a reliable right handed reliever to the mix.
Bonderman is suiting up for the Triple A Toledo Mud Hens these days, having signed a minor league contract just before the All-Star break. And within two or three weeks, he and the Tigers will decide if he can help them — or if it’s best to move on.
Both sides hope he can make a contribution, albeit out of the bullpen.
“We know his makeup. He’s a bulldog. He’s gonna go right after guys,” said Phil Nevin, Toledo’s manager. “This role is new to him. We’re kind of trying to see how his body really responds to pitching and getting hot each day.
Bonderman spent the first eight seasons of his career as a starter for the Tigers, debuting as a 20-year-old that lost 19 games for the historically bad 2003 Tigers. By the time he and the team parted ways after the 2010 season, Bonderman had endured injuries that left him ready for retirement at age 28. After two years out of baseball and having undergone Tommy john surgery, Bonderman made his comeback with the Seattle Mariners this year and worked his way back to the big leagues before Seattle designated him for assignment last month.
Now, the Tigers will see if he has enough left in the tank to help them in a middle relief role.
“Obviously, I think I can help, or I wouldn’t be here,” Bonderman said before Friday’s game, in which he worked another perfect inning and exhibited excellent command, throwing 12 strikes out of 15 pitches. “But that’s their decision.”
“If they feel I can help, then I’ll go.”