Bonderman returns on minor-league deal
Jeremy Bonderman had a standing offer from the Tigers for a minor-league contract last offseason, but signed with the Mariners to stay close to home and get what he rightly felt was a better chance to win a rotation spot. As the season heads into his ceremonial midpoint, Bonderman is coming back to the Tigers organization.
“Hard to go that far,” Bonderman said in a text message, “but it’s where I wanted to play.”
Bonderman signed a minor-league contract that includes an opt-out clause that allows him to ask for his release if he’s not called up to Detroit by a certain date. He’ll report to Triple-A Toledo coming out of the All-Star break Thursday in Buffalo and take the rotation spot previously held by Derek Hankins, who is headed to Korea to pitch.
Whenever Bonderman makes his first start, it’ll be his first appearance in the Tigers organization since Oct. 1, 2010, when he started the lost the first game of a doubleheader in Baltimore on the final weekend of that season. He hasn’t pitched in Toledo since 2009, when he was struggling to come back from surgery to correct his thoracic outlet syndrome.
Bonderman made seven starts for Seattle, going 1-2 with a 4.93 ERA, before the M’s designated him for assignment last week. He gave up 21 earned runs on 40 hits over 38 1/3 innings, but 10 of those runs came in his last two starts.
His fastball velocity this year has actually been better than it was in 2010, his final season as a Tiger, and it had been building with each start. Signing now allows him to try to continue that path, even if it means accepting a trip to the minors.
Bonderman said he had a few offers, but the Tigers offered him both familiarity and what he sees as an opportunity. I don’t know if that means the potential of him joining the bullpen at some point this summer. As a starter, he seems to be an insurance option in case anybody else got hurt or suspended. Yes, the Tigers have Jose Alvarez for that, but not much after him. That fact had to be scaring some people in the organization when Rick Porcello was suspended a couple weeks ago, because once they sent down Alvarez to make room for Anibal Sanchez, they wouldn’t have been able to call up Alvarez to take Porcello’s place before the break.