March 20th, 2010

Leyland wants Bonderman to throw more splits

Yes, you’ve probably heard this before, but this time Jim Leyland has basically told Jeremy Bonderman that he needs the splitter as a third pitch if he’s going to be an effective pitcher.

“I talked to Bondo last night,” Leyland said Saturday morning. “With the equipment he has right now. I think he needs to become a three-pitch pitcher. He can’t pitch like he did before, throwing 95, 94 [mph]. He needs to use the three pitches to be effective. I think he can do that.”

That makes a difference how? Consider Bonderman’s comments after his first outing of the spring against the Blue Jays:

“I’ve got to throw it,” Bonderman said on March 3. “If I want to be any good,
I’ve got to take risks. I’m not going to go out there and just use what
I know works all the time. To be successful and have a full year, I
want that other pitch. If someone beats me out for the fifth spot,
fourth spot, whatever it is, then good for them.”

Now here are his comments four days later, after he was knocked out in the second inning:

“I don’t have a job,” Bonderman said. “Shoot, there’s five guys fighting for two jobs, maybe six guys. I don’t know exactly, but there’s enough guys fighting for them. [There's] nothing in stone that it’s my spot. Until [Leyland] comes up to me and says, ‘It’s your job,’ I don’t think I have a job. Just because you’re under contract doesn’t mean anything. I haven’t played in two years. I just need to get more consistent and get ahead in the count.”

Now, if Bonderman is feeling like he has to get ahead in counts and fight for a job, how much is he going to focus on working on a third pitch?

That’s where Leyland’s remarks make a difference. Ideally, they’re reassurance.

“I think guys are trying what they think is their best shot to make the team,” Leyland said Saturday morning.

Other items of interest from Saturday:

  • If Ramon Santiago looked a little faster running out his triple on Saturday, there’s a reason. He spent a good amount of time in the offseason doing workouts designed to help his quickness, including instruction from a former Cuban track and field coach now living in the Dominican. He also has worked with new coach Tom Brookens on how to hit the bases on the inside and get around quicker. He thinks he can steal some bases if the team asks him, but more important, he feels he can go from first to third on more hits to set up easy RBI chances.
  • Leyland reiterated what he has said about young lefty Daniel Schlereth so far: Good stuff, but a little inconsistent. Then he added this: A person he respects from another organization said he felt Schlereth had the best left-hander he saw all year in 2009. Wouldn’t say who it was.
  • Robbie Weinhardt is still in camp, albeit a long shot by Leyland’s admission to make the roster. Still, Leyland believes he isn’t far off. “He’s a good breaking ball from being a Major League pitcher right now,” Leyland said. “He has a true big-time sinker, but he needs to do more with his breaking ball.”
  • Today was a quick day back at work after being off Thursday and Friday. I’ll be off again Sunday. Always fun to get a break hanging out and watching March Madness. It’s one of those few sporting events where you can talk about a banker, an IT guy and a garbageman walking into a sports bar and not have it be the start of a joke.

Seay definitely out, set to have MRI

Bobby Seay had a setback in his bullpen session Saturday morning and will have another MRI exam on his ailing left shoulder.

Seay said he will have the exam in the next couple days was expected to have the exam Saturday and have the results checked out by a few specialists, including orthopaedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews. Seay had an MRI last month after he was first shut down from throwing, but results showed no structural damage.

Manager Jim Leyland said Saturday it’s a certainty that Seay will begin the season on the disabled list.

The news was somewhat better on fellow Tigers reliever Zach Miner, whose MRI results came back negative. He has been diagnosed with a muscle strain around his elbow and hopes rest and treatment will allow him to start throwing again in the coming days.

Miner is still hopeful he can be ready for Opening Day. Leyland indicated he isn’t sure.

Seay was originally diagnosed with bursitis in his upper left arm and tendinitis in the shoulder. He had started throwing last week and began throwing off a mound earlier in the week. His latest attempt, though, stopped before it started.

“Throwing in the bullpen today, I couldn’t get my arm in a throwing position,” Seay said.

That was the indication that it was time for another look in the elbow. His next exam will include a dye injection in the elbow to give a more detailed view.

Seay just wants to know. He’s been dealing with discomfort since he started his throwing program in January, and he wants to get it healthy rather than make it worse.

“At this point, I’m just fed up with the pain associated with trying to get loose and feelings in my arm I shouldn’t be having,” he said. “Whether it’s major or minor, I have to get some peace of mind to know what’s going on.”

With Seay out, the Tigers go from having a potential surplus of left-handed relievers to trying to fill in without their veteran lefty specialist. Phil Coke is all but certain to be part of the group, having been taken out of consideration for a starting role a couple weeks ago. Sidearmer Fu-Te Ni was a valuable reliever down the stretch last year after a midseason call-up. Offseason signing Brad Thomas has had success this spring. Daniel Schlereth is a valuable relief prospect after coming over from Arizona in the Edwin Jackson trade, but he has had his share of spring struggles.

Tigers re-sign Casey Fien

The Tigers announced Saturday morning that they’ve re-signed Casey Fien to a minor-league contract, three weeks and two teams after they designated him for assignment to make room for Johnny Damon on the roster.

You might recall that the Tigers designated Fien Feb. 23 after signing Damon. Fien worked out in the Tigers minor league camp for the next week or so while he waited to see whether anyone claimed him on waivers. The Red Sox did on March 1, but no sooner did Fien report to their big league camp than the Red Sox tried to get him through waivers. The Blue Jays then claimed him March 4, and Fien headed back up I-75 to report to camp with them. Then Toronto released him on Thursday.

Fien will now report back to the Tigers’ minor league camp.

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