Thursday, April 19, 2007

Unsupported Bonderman Not Discouraged

He sat in front of his locker, nursing a Bud Light, and waxed casually about baseball, a game where you "win some you shouldn't and lose some you probably deserved to win."

If Jeremy Bonderman is discouraged about being winless after four quality starts in 2007, he's doing a great job of hiding it. He is, however, disappointed -- but for the team, not necessarily for himself.

Bonderman addressed us after yesterday's tough, 4-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals in 10 innings at Comerica Park. Yours truly was there, working for Michigan In Play! Magazine.

"This is a funny game, man," Bonderman said after going seven strong innings (86 pitches; three hits; one earned run; six strikeouts, no walks). "But their guy (Royals starter Gil Meche) pitched great, too."

Bonderman was told that closer Todd Jones, who blew a two-run lead in the ninth, had said that he felt bad for ruining Bonderman's off day.

"He didn't ruin anything. I'll be fine," Bonderman said, chuckling. "Jonesy's been great all year. He can't be perfect. He'll go out and shut them down for us the rest of the season."

Bonderman expressed some dismay that the team is 1-3 in games in which he's started, but that can hardly be blamed on him. In 28 innings this season, the Tigers' new ace is 0-0, but with a 2.25 ERA.

Yesterday was the second straight pitcher's duel that Bonderman has been involved in. Friday night in Toronto, he locked horns with the Blue Jays' Roy Halladay, going nine innings and only allowing one run. The Jays won that one in the 10th off Fernando Rodney (0-3), who was the loser Wednesday as well. Yesterday Bondo went toe-to-toe with Meche, the Royals' big free agent signee in the off-season.

I asked Bonderman if he tends to bear down more during such duels.

"You always bear down, but pitcher's duels are fun, man. It's fun to go out there against their big boys and get it on. Meche is a great pitcher and today he showed why he got all that money in the offseason."

Bonderman got a lot of money, too, in his contract extension -- and nobody can accuse him of stealing it. It's amazing that he's winless (although, justifiably, without a loss, too) after four starts that have been Cy Young-ish.

Naturally, Bonderman was asked if he wanted to go back out in the eighth inning, in which he was replaced by Joel Zumaya.

"Of course. I never want to get taken out of a game. But skip (manager Jim Leyland) said I was done, so I was done."

He later admitted that he's "0 for whatever" in trying to convince Leyland that he should be left in a ballgame.

Centerfielder Curtis Granderson said it's up to the offense to pick up Bonderman.

"Got to get him a few more runs," Granderson said, adding that the Tigers had the Royals where they wanted them, but let them slip off the hook.

Last season it was Nate Robertson who was the victim of a lack of run support. This year it's Bonderman, proving an old baseball adage that one guy will feast, and another will famine.

The Tigers are 9-6, though, with an offense that continues to sputter. Yesterday the team started four regulars whose BA were each under .200.

"Exactly," first baseman Sean Casey said when I said it should be encouraging that the Tigers are winning with a less-than-stellar offense. "Maybe there'll be a time this season when we're not pitching well but we're swinging the bats good. Right now we're winning with pitching and good defense."

Casey was 0-for-4. He's one of the under-.200 offenders. He had an opportunity to break out of it in the eighth inning, when he got ahead of Meche 3-0 and a runner on first. But after two strikes, Casey popped out to third base.

One of those days?

"You got that right," Casey said. "You got that right."


Click here to read portions of my pregame interview for M.I.P. magazine with designated hitter Gary Sheffield, in which he discusses coming to Detroit (he had uncertainty at first), his slow start, and the team's chances in 2007.


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