PEORIA, Ariz. – Mariners non-roster candidate Jeremy Bonderman had little idea what to expect two months ago when he arrived here to resume a pitching career abandoned after the 2010 season.
And having lasted this long in the team’s rotation battle, Bonderman, 30, still has no idea where he’ll make his next start. The only thing the Pasco resident is certain about following his final Cactus League outing Tuesday is that he still has what it takes to compete in the majors.
But if his comeback is to continue beyond Tuesday’s 11-6 loss to the Kansas City Royals, Bonderman will have to show he can compete a little bit longer in games. Bonderman hit the proverbial wall in the fifth and sixth innings and likely settled any question of whether he needs more seasoning in Triple-A.
“I was definitely tired,” he said. “I definitely had some fatigue. It wasn’t the best stuff I’ve had. It definitely wasn’t what I was hoping for.
“I was rolling along pretty good, and then I got smacked in the mouth.”
By the time he was done, he’d given up seven runs on 11 hits in 5 1/3 innings. And while manager Eric Wedge wasn’t prepared to say it out loud, he gave every indication postgame that he’d like Bonderman to continue to work in Triple-A to get his arm strength where it needs to be.
“We’ll see how he feels tomorrow and go from there,” Wedge said. “But ultimately, it’s a unique situation. What we’re trying to do is put everybody in the best position to succeed and the best position this year – whether it be right away or at some point in time later.”
Wedge said he is “real close” to naming his starting rotation, but wants to talk it over with the pitchers and coaches first. Barring a trade, the team will almost certainly go with Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Joe Saunders, Blake Beavan and Class AA prospect Brandon Maurer as their starting five.
After using just 47 pitches the first four innings, Bonderman had to throw 30 more just to get out of a six-run fifth. He gave up seven hits, three of them doubles, and one a triple.
Just as telling, the two-seam fastball he’d been throwing at 90-93 mph the first few innings had dipped to 87-88 mph by the fifth. The Mariners still sent Bonderman out for the sixth to see what he had left before reaching his allotment of 90 pitches.
And the answer: not much.
Seattle wanted to see Bonderman get in some extended work before making a decision on the rotation.