By Ashley Dunkak
DETROIT (CBS DETROIT) – It would be hard to script a more powerful, victorious return to form than Jeremy Bonderman experienced Wednesday pitching for the Detroit Tigers for the first time since 2010.
The Tigers were all tied up with American League Central division foe Cleveland, and the game had already dragged through the 10th inning. Bonderman had been called up from Triple-A Toledo just a few days prior, but manager Jim Leyland sent him in to pitch the 11th.
Bonderman enticed the first two batters into swinging strikeouts, and the third grounded out. Three up, three down.
Leyland sent Bonderman back out for the 12th. He struck out the leadoff man. The second batter singled, but the third grounded into a double play. Bonderman had faced the minimum again.
Relievers rarely pitch more than two innings – and many times they only throw one – but Leyland trotted out Bonderman, a converted starter after all, one more time. Fly out, fly out, ground out. Three up, three down.
Bonderman kept the Indians at bay, and eventually Detroit got some much needed offense, breaking the tie and sealing its 11th straight victory.
Three innings of scoreless relief is an impressive feat by any pitcher, but Bonderman’s backstory makes his performance even more remarkable.
The pitcher overcame daunting odds to return to baseball at all. He sat out 2011 and 2012 trying to fully recover from a litany of injuries that threatened to end his career.
Just 12 starts into the 2008 season, it was discovered Bonderman had a blood clot. He underwent surgery to break up that clot, and later he had surgery again to remove a rib that was pinching the vein – the pinching of which was causing the blood clot. The lingering effects of those problems bothered Bonderman in 2009, when he only made one start. He took on a full workload the following season, but he recorded a 5.53 ERA, one of the highest of his career, and a WHIP of 1.444.
As if all that was not enough, Bonderman injured his elbow during that offseason. In spring of 2012, he underwent Tommy John surgery on his elbow.
Now Bonderman is back. He started out 2013 with the Mariners, but they designated him for assignment after seven games. The Tigers signed him to a Triple-A contract but brought him up to the majors a few days ago.
Bonderman’s outing Wednesday certainly made it worth their while.