February 20, 2013
Jeremy Bonderman understands his situation. He's a pitcher who hasn't thrown in a Major League game in nearly three years, a guy with a lot of mileage on his right arm and a 30-year-old veteran trying to win a job on a team with a ton of young pitching prospects.
But he's also a competitor, a man with World Series experience who understands what it takes to be a big leaguer, and a proven starter with a desire to write a better ending to his career than the one currently scripted.
The former Tigers starter is in Mariners camp on a Minor League deal, a non-roster invitee given a chance to show what he can do as he comes back from Tommy John surgery. The elbow had bothered Bonderman for years, though was the lesser of his concerns after dealing with thoracic outlet compression syndrome in his right chest that wiped out much of his 2008 and '09 seasons.
"I'm taking it as a second chance," Bonderman said while sitting at his locker in the Mariners' clubhouse prior to Tuesday's workout. "For me, I want to go out on my own terms. I don't know what's going to happen here, but if I prove myself healthy, they'll either say, 'You're on the team,' or, 'Hey, you're not good enough.' It is what it is."
As a native of Richland, Wash., Bonderman figured the Mariners were the perfect team to resurrect his career after rehabbing his arm and elbow the past two years at his home in eastern Washington.
He's thrown fairly well in his initial bullpen sessions this spring, but knows the real test will come when games begin.
"I'm just trying to get better every time and be more consistent," Bonderman said. "It's been a couple years, so I'm just trying to get the rhythm down and get the tempo. My first bullpen wasn't the greatest, but my last two have been really good. Bullpens aren't everything. Hitters will let you know."
Bonderman will throw his first live batting practice session on Wednesday, then be ready for game action when the Cactus League season opens Friday.
He acknowledges he's still kicking the rust off, but the most important thing for Bonderman is throwing free and easy and without pain for the first time in years. He underwent Tommy John surgery in April after the elbow continued bothering him despite not pitching since 2010, when he went 8-10 with a 5.53 ERA in 30 games with the Tigers.
"It feels amazing," he said. "Quite honestly, I'd have gotten it fixed a long time ago if I'd known it would feel this good. I had the surgery in April, so it's only been nine months. But after about six weeks, I didn't have any pain anymore and had a full range of motion.