Bonderman ready to get back on track in Detroit |

Bonderman ready to get back on track in Detroit

Associated Press

LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) – The Detroit Tigers appear content to go about business with Jeremy Bonderman as if the past two seasons never happened.

That’d be fine with him, too.

“My arm feels good, it’s just a matter of building strength,” said Bonderman, who didn’t win a game last year after shoulder surgery in June 2008. “It’s been two years and I need to work really hard in the next two weeks to get my mechanics back.”

Tigers manager Jim Leyland said he has the 27-year-old right-hander penciled into the rotation. Bonderman has been throwing freely and without pain since early February.

“Bonderman, in my opinion, is back to a normal spring training and we’re going to see what he looks like,” Leyland said Friday. “I think he is OK. I mean we’ll find out, you never know for sure.”

The exhibition season starts March 2, and Bonderman is expected to take his turns in the rotation along with Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer.

After the surgery, Bonderman was told it would be about three months until he was fully healthy. He tried coming back last spring, then again in June, and made some relief appearances in September. And although he didn’t pitch well, his arm didn’t ache afterward.

That’s enough to make Bonderman feel encouraged about the season.

“I’m a little more cautious. It wouldn’t have been quite as bad but I was expecting myself to be ready,” Bonderman said. “I pushed myself too hard and I had setbacks. By the time I realized what was going on, it was too late. There were signs, but I didn’t notice them.”

Last summer, he wasn’t sure he would even get back to this point.

“I didn’t know if my career was over or what. I just started slowly coming back and I still have a ways to go. By no means am I satisfied,” he said. “I just want to get back to where I used to be. Actually I’d like to be better than I was, but it takes time.”

Bonderman won 50 games from 2004-2007. In the Tigers’ pennant-winning season of 2006, he went 14-8, struck out 202 and led the league with 34 starts.

Seems like a long time ago.

“I appreciate the game more,” he said. “It’s hard to sit around and watch your team. You’re rooting for those guys, but also in the back of your mind is, ‘What could I do if I was out there?’ I know how my arm feels now and I’d like to keep it like this. I feel like I did when I was 20 and that’s about as good as it gets.”

Nothing has been said about pitch counts yet, according to pitching coach Rick Knapp, but it goes without saying Bonderman’s sessions will be closely monitored.

“It’s very, very important not to do too much, too soon,” Knapp said. “That’s what we are trying to emphasize today.”

NOTES: Relief pitcher Jose Valverde and catcher Max St. Pierre are expected to arrive Saturday . . . Catcher Gerald Laird, attending his sister’s wedding, will make it to camp on Monday . . . Leyland raised a few eyebrows by announcing Friday morning: “You’ll notice I’m not swearing this year. I use my seat belt all the time and I’m not swearing anymore.” The new clean-mouth policy came about, he said, “because I swear a lot. … I ran into somebody this winter and I was laughing so hard because this guy swears more than I do. And I thought to myself, ‘It doesn’t really sound that good.”‘