Bonine as Mr. Reliable
Eddie Bonine said he’s fine if Jim Leyland says he knows what to expect from him. In fact, he’s kind of flattered. If he’s Mr. Reliable in the race for rotation spots, that’s cool with him. He hasn’t really been that kind of guy before.
He has been the overlooked guy before, but he has had a habit of defying expectations.
“It sounds like a compliment,” Bonine said of Leyland’s remarks after his two innings Friday against the Astros. “I think I’ve kind of been that kind of pitcher the last few years. Just being in that discussion as far as a guy that could possibly start for them, that’s where I want to be. There’s definitely a business side of it, but I know that when it comes to on the field, Dave [Dombrowski] and Jim [Leyland], they want to go out there and win ballgames. The rest of that stuff is going to take care of itself.”
Right now, Bonine is trying to take care of his pitches, The knuckleball, that unpredictable pitch that the Tigers like and want to see him throw, is the last pitch in the package, and it was the pitch that gave him some trouble Friday.
Bonine gave his three doubles in his two innings of work, and two of them came off knuckleballs that didn’t knuckle. It sounds like the pitch isn’t coming along, but it’s a pitch that he can only really hone in games. It isn’t a practice pitch for him.
“It’s one of those pitches that when I throw it, it’s full arm speed,” Bonine said. “It’s not just a different grip. It’s a different type of pitch. It seems like that’s the last pitch that comes for me, that good release point on that pitch. It’s definitely a feel pitch, and last year I got to the point where I could take some off it and kind of pitch off of it at different speeds. That’s one of those things that just comes from being out there and throwing it and getting a better feel for it. That’s where I’d like to be. I’m going to get back to that, how I finished last year as far as being able to add and subtract from that pitch. But it’s just a feel pitch.”
Once he gets that pitch down, you’re probably going to see more swings and misses from him. But it takes time, which is a tough situation for someone fighting for a roster spot. For now, once he got into trouble, he said he “had to go to work.” In other words, he had to get away from the knuckler for a little bit.
That goes back to the difference between Bonine and a knuckleballer like Tim Wakefield. Bonine throws a knuckleball — throws two, if you count the different speeds — but he isn’t a knuckleball pitcher. In other words, he doesn’t live and die on that pitch. He’ll throw not only fastballs, but a breaking ball that some confuse with the knuckler.
With all those variables, it’s new for him to be considered Mr. Reliable. But he’ll take it.
“I’m just still that guy who’s trying to get up there and continuing to prove myself,” Bonine said. “It’s a tremendous compliment, obviously, what Skip was saying, that he knows what he’s getting with me.”