By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
PEORIA, Ariz. — Jeremy Bonderman couldn’t hide the disappointment. He knew his chance to make the Seattle Mariners’ starting rotation out of spring training likely wilted in the desert sun against Kansas City on Tuesday.
The game was the veteran right-hander’s one last chance to convince Mariners manager Eric Wedge that he’s healthy enough and strong to be part of the rotation. Bonderman had just a slim chance going into the game, and he almost certainly has no chance now. Only an injury to a Mariners starting pitcher in the next five days would open the door again for him.
Bonderman’s biggest start of the spring collapsed in the fifth inning amid an avalanche of hits and runs that left him gassed and the Mariners with more questions than answers.
Bonderman did pitch four solid innings, allowing just one run on three hits. However, in the fifth, after getting a quick out to start, Bonderman gave up single to Chris Getz, a triple to Brett Hayes and then back-to-back RBI doubles to Jarrod Dyson and Alcides Escobar. Things only got worse.
He took a hard ground ball of the leg, but was able to get Billy Butler out. Bonderman stayed in the game, but surrendered three consecutive hits — an RBI single by Eric Hosmer, another single by Lorenzo Cain and a two-run double by Jeff Francoeur. Bonderman finally got Miguel Tejada to ground out to end the carnage.
“I was rolling along pretty well and then got smacked in the mouth,” Bonderman said.
Perhaps more concerning than the hits was that Bonderman wore down as the fifth inning progressed. The velocity on his fastball dropped from 90-92 mph to 84-86 by the end of the inning. It was as if he went from throwing a baseball to heaving a shot put.
“I was definitely tired,” he said. “I definitely had some fatigue.”
That fatigue has to be a concern to the Mariners. Bonderman is more than two years removed from throwing in a major league game and he had offseason elbow surgery. Seattle certainly can’t start a season with a starting pitcher that gets fatigued just 80 pitches into a game.
“He’s still getting into territories where he hasn’t really been yet in terms of pitch count and innings,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said.
Wedge had Bonderman start the sixth even after the bloody fifth.
“I felt it was important to go back out there and push himself along,” Wedge said.
Bonderman got the first out before giving up another hit to Hayes. The Mariners lifted him after that. He’d thrown 89 pitches (63 strikes) and given up seven runs on 11 hits with a walk and two strikeouts in 51/3 innings of work.
It was his worst outing of the spring, and it came at the most inopportune time.
“It wasn’t the first day I’ve had it happen, but definitely the wrong day,” he said.
Wedge has been careful not to give any hints about the rotation, but admitted that Bonderman’s return is still a work in progress that might need time in Tacoma to finish. He wouldn’t directly comment on Bonderman’s future.
“We’ll see how he feels (today) 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 to help us this year, whether it be right away or at some point in time later.”
That speaks to the idea of Bonderman pitching for the Rainiers for a month or so to build up more strength and show he has the stamina to pitch at a high level.
Bonderman has remained steadfast in not discussing his future.
“They know what I can do. They have seen how far I have come this spring so we will let them make the decision and move on from there,” he said.
As of now, it seems as though Blake Beavan and Brandon Maurer have locked up the final rotation slots. Wedge could announce the starting rotation in the next day or two.
“We’re real close, but we still have to have some conversations obviously,” he said. “I’m hoping we can get all squared away before we go to Salt Lake City.”
The Mariners leave for Salt Lake City on Friday afternoon and play the Rockies on Saturday.
Wedge hopes to start Franklin Gutierrez today against the Dodgers, playing him in back-to-back games for the first time in weeks. After a strong start, Gutierrez complained of tightness in his legs. The Mariners shut him down from games for a week. “We’ve been very careful with him and for good reason,” Wedge said. Gutierrez went 2-for-4 with a two-run double and a solo homer on Tuesday against the Indians. ? Right-hander Erasmo Ramirez, who is recovering from triceps tightness in his throwing arm, will pitch three innings in a minor league game today. Ramirez had been scheduled to pitch in relief in the Cactus League game, but with Felix Hernandez’s pitch count near 100 there was a concern Ramirez wouldn’t get the game innings needed.