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.


Bondo needs the splitter to be effective. His fastball is still not all the back. At this point, I would put him in the pen as Nate and Willis have out pitched him. Valverde, Perry, Zumaya, Coke, Ni, Bonderman will be in the bullpen with the final spot going to Bonine or Thomas. Miner and Seay will be on the disabled list.
The offense has looked better than expected this spring. I like Thomas for the final roster spot as he is a better outfielder and hitter than Kelly. They will still need him as a late inning defensive replacement. Larish has had a good spring, but they need the extra outfielder more than an infielder.
Toledo is going to be loaded with outfielders this year. It is going to be interesting to watch the progression of Wells, Strieby, Boesch and Ramirez.
Now that my Spring Training trip is over, I am looking forward to April.

I was surprised JL saw a higher priority of Ni facing lefties than Eddie starting the game. It is not as if Ni needed to show he can get lefties out with his 2009 .113 average.
I suppose taking Bonine out of the starters equation allows the focus on the three big contract players, none of which thrill me coming back as a reliever. Bondo has career ERA’s of 7.31 for his 0-15 pitch count, 6.93 ERA for 16-30 with all subsequent pitch counts under 4.4 ERA with an overall 4.78 ERA.
Nate is no better starting off with a career 6.81 ERA for 0-15 pitch count and 5.30 for 16-30 compared to his career 4.92 ERA.
It will be a close call for the final bench and bullpen spots with Kelly and Brad Thomas being out of options at this stage getting the two over the line on starting day.

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