Mariners' Jeremy Bonderman pain-free and in control

ryan.divish@thenewstribune.comMarch 16, 2013 

TEMPE, Ariz. — If Jeremy Bonderman doesn’t make the Seattle Mariners’ starting rotation out of spring training, it won’t be because he isn’t healthy. And it won’t be because he isn’t pitching well. It will be because the Mariners simply want to go with a different option instead.

On Friday, the Kennewick native showed the Mariners and a dozen scouts in attendance that he’s a legitimate candidate for one of two spots likely up for grabs in Seattle’s starting rotation – or someone else’s starting rotation, if need be.

Bonderman threw four innings in the Mariners’ 8-5 win over the Los Angeles Angels, giving up two runs on five hits, striking out two hitters and walking none.

While they weren’t shutout innings, Bonderman looked solid. His fastball was right around 90-92 mph and he used his slider and split-finger fastball on several occasions. More important, six of his nine outs came on ground

balls and three of the five hits were ground balls.

“I was just trying to stay down and use the bottom part of the strike zone and make them swing the bat,” Bonderman said. “I really only made one mistake — the double.”

That came in the second inning, and it was stroked by Chris Iannetta into the left-center gap to drive in a run after Bonderman gave up a leadoff ground-ball single to Vernon Wells. The pitch to Iannetta, who later scored on a sacrifice bunt and a fielder’s choice, was up in the strike zone.

After that hiccup, Bonderman was pretty smooth. He gave up one-out hits in the third and fourth innings and quickly erased each of them by coaxing ground balls for double plays from the subsequent batters, including slugger Josh Hamilton.

It’s all starting to come back to Bonderman after a layoff of two seasons since he last pitched in a major league game on Oct. 1, 2010.

“My breaking ball has gotten a lot sharper and a lot better, the location has gotten better,” he said. “Overall, I’m just getting that feeling back and making adjustments on the fly.”

Mariners manager Eric Wedge was pleased with what he saw from Bonderman.

“He was putting the ball on the ground all day,” Wedge said. “He had a nice slider working. … He threw the ball very well.”

There hasn’t been a single issue with Bonderman’s throwing arm. His surgically repaired right elbow (April 2012) is fine and the troublesome shoulder that interrupted his career prematurely (blood clot in 2008) hasn’t been an issue.

“I feel good,” he said. “I don’t hurt at all. I’m not sore. There’s no reason to doubt how my arm is feeling as of right now. If it stays the same way, it will be good.”

After being out of baseball since 2010, Bonderman needs to work on his secondary pitches and find his feel and command in game situations. That’s what spring training is for. But he can’t afford to go out there and not have productive outings. He’s a nonroster invitee. To make the team, he has to prove he is healthy, his arm is strong and he can get outs.

“I’m still taking opportunities to try stuff out and work on stuff,” he said “But obviously I need results. It’s not like when you know you are on the team for sure, and you can go out there and really work on stuff. I’m trying to work on stuff and put up results”

If Bonderman wasn’t legitimately in the discussion for a spot in the starting rotation before, he is after his latest outing. Both Bonderman and Jon Garland — another injury reclamation signing — have established themselves as viable candidates for the rotation, along with holdovers Erasmo Ramirez and Blake Beavan and youngster Brandon Maurer.

“If you look at the way (Bonderman) is throwing the baseball and the experience level he has,” Wedge said. “He and Garland are both interesting stories, but they’ve both been throwing the ball well this spring.”

Why would Wedge favor Bonderman or Garland over younger, promising organizational players like Ramirez and Beavan?

“You have to take into account the success they’ve already had at the big league level, and, obviously, the professionals that they are and their know-how to get big league hitters out,” Wedge said.

Wedge has 13 games in 15 days to sort out the competition for the rotation.

“We’ll see how it plays out,” Wedge said. “We are going to keep sending him out there. Obviously we are getting the numbers down in camp, so there will be more innings available for those guys.”

Bonderman knows making the rotation won’t be easy with five pitchers vying for two spots.

“There are some good guys,” Bonderman said. “If I don’t make the team, then I don’t make the team. It’s part of the business. I’ve proven to myself that I can pitch again in the big leagues. And if it ain’t here, then hopefully it’s somewhere else. If not, I will be at home.”

What if that place is Triple A Tacoma to start the season?

“We’ll have to see how spring plays out,” he said. “I’m not at that point yet. When the time comes, we’ll have to make that decision.”

GUTIERREZ’S LEGS SORE

After six days out of the lineup, there were questions about Franklin Gutierrez. The oft-injured outfielder has been having an outstanding spring. But any time Gutierrez is out of the lineup for that long there is a reason for concern.

When asked, Gutierrez assured reporters he’s healthy, but said he has experienced soreness in his legs the past few days, the reason for his absence. He was quick to point out he’s still at the complex every day taking batting practice and doing workouts.

“Nothing to worry about,” he said.

Wedge also downplayed it.

“He’s fine,” Wedge said. “We are just going to make sure we are very careful.”

GARLAND STRUGGLES

Jon Garland struggled Friday evening in Peoria in an 8-1 loss to the Netherlands in a World Baseball Classic exhibition.

The veteran right-hander gave up five runs on six hits with two walks and seven strikeouts in three innings. .

“I was just rushing to the plate and my front side was opening up heavily and I was jerking a lot of balls … and giving them extra chances,” Garland said.

Ex-Mariners outfielder Wladimir Balentien drove in all five runs that Garland gave up, including a three-run homer in the first.

SHORT HOPS

The Mariners made more roster moves on Friday morning. Third baseman Alex Liddi, who just returned from playing for Italy in the World Baseball Classic, was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma. Infielder Stefen Romero and catchers John Hicks and Ronny Paulino were re-assigned to minor league camp since they are not on the 40-man roster. … Single game tickets for the Mariners’ 2013 season go on sale at 10 a.m. today. Tickets will be available without a service charge at the Safeco Field box office and at Seattle Mariners team stores. Tickets will also be available online at www.mariners.com.

SPRING TRAINING RECAP

MARINERS 8, ANGELS 5, at Tempe Diablo Stadium

The facts: The Mariners were winners for the second straight day despite giving up 12 hits to the Angels. Seattle was powered by three more home runs, running their major league-leading total to 39 this spring. Jeremy Bonderman (2-0) gave the Mariners a solid start, allowing two runs on five hits with two strikeouts in four innings, to earn the victory.

Play of the game: Justin Smoak continues to show management that he’s ready to be a productive player this season. Smoak battled Angels starter Tommy Hanson to a full count, laying off a couple of nasty breaking pitches in the dirt. On the 3-2 pitch, Smoak — hitting left-handed — drove an outside fastball from Hanson over the wall in left field for his third homer this spring. “He’s had some real good at-bats this spring,” manager Eric Wedge said. “He’s in a much stronger position to hit, much better balance up there, using his lower half and seeing the ball well.”

Who was hot: Julio Morban hasn’t topped any list of prospects. In fact, it was a surprise to many that the 21-year-old outfielder was on the 40-man roster. But he’s turned some heads this spring, and Friday was his best game to date. He hit a two-run homer to right field in the second inning and crushing a two-run homer to almost dead center field some 400 feet. He finished the game 2-for-3 with a walk, four RBI and two runs scored. This spring he’s hitting .300 (9-for-30) with three doubles, two homers and six RBI.

Who was not: Yoervis Medina continues to struggle this spring with his command. He pitched one inning, allowing two runs on three hits and one walk. He continues to struggle with his command. His ERA this spring is 9.00 and he’s given up 11 hits in six innings.

Quotable: “He’s a good baseball player. He has a nice swing and a nice approach at the plate. He’s focused and he’s had a great camp for us. This is a guy that came in here and made quite an impression.” — Wedge on Morban.

On tap: The Mariners travel to Scottsdale, Ariz., to face the Colorado Rockies at 1:05 p.m. today at Salt River Field. Right-hander Erasmo Ramirez will start for Seattle. Also schedule to pitch are Charlie Furbush, Oliver Perez, Danny Farquhar and Logan Bawcom. Colorado will start right-hander Chris Volstad. The game will be broadcast live locally on 710-AM.

Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 ryan.divish@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @RyanDivish ryan.divish@thenewstribune.com

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