Bonderman wants repeat of ALDS win
With playoff success, righty trusted to close in on Fall Classic
DETROIT -- The perception of Jeremy Bonderman before his start against the Yankees in Game 4 of the American League Division Series was that he was a good young pitcher, but whether he could be the guy to come through in a critical situation was still up for debate.
That reasoning stood because it was Bonderman who had given up a six-run lead in the final game of the regular season against the Royals, setting up a loss that cost the Tigers the AL Central title.But after Bonderman held the Yankees to just two runs on five hits over 8 1/3 innings, helping the Tigers clinch a spot in the ALCS with his dominant effort, it's clear that the public's view on him has dramatically changed. Not that it seems to matter much to the 23-year-old right-hander. "I don't really care," Bonderman said of the change. "I mean, if I would have lost, I would have still been the same person. I just happened to have a great game and we moved on." Moving on means getting the opportunity to pitch in what will be another big game for the Tigers. Bonderman will take the mound in Game 4 of the ALCS against the Oakland A's on Saturday with the chance to help the Tigers earn their first World Series berth since 1984. And it's the team that he will face during this big game that adds a little to the drama to the situation.
Bonderman was one of Oakland's first-round picks in the 2001 First-Year Player Draft. Bonderman's career in the organization was short, as the A's traded the 19-year-old prospect in August 2002 as the "player to be named" along with Carlos Pena and Franklyn German to Detroit in a three-team trade involving the Tigers, A's and Yankees.It wasn't until after the trade that emotions really got stirred up for Bonderman, as he was featured in the famous book Moneyball about A's general manager Billy Beane and his method of building organizations. In one chapter, a story was included that Beane threw a chair at a wall when the club selected Bonderman due to his being an unproven high school junior at the time.
A lot has been made of Bonderman wanting to make the most of facing the club that traded him away, but it's something that he tried to push away on Friday."I've beat them before and they've beat me, so I don't really have any hard feelings anymore about it," Bonderman said. "For me to have a grudge against the team now, you've got to put that aside anyways in this situation." And while Bonderman is quick to push off any meaning behind this start, it's clear that it means something, as it's been a rocky road to reaching this point in his career. He lost 19 games in the Tigers' 119-loss 2003 season and slowly showed improvement over the past two years. But once again, this year had its ups and downs with an unbeaten streak of 10 games followed by a patch of rough starts only to end with the outing against the Royals. Instead of talking about his career, though, Bonderman tried to focus on what he will have to do on Saturday against a team that he knows can be dangerous if he doesn't keep the same attitude he had in his other Game 4 start. "They've got a lot of power and a lot of professional hitters -- just like the Yankees," Bonderman said. "You can't back down. You've got to go out and attack them and try to make them hit at your pitch."
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That's exactly the plan that Bonderman had going into his last start against the Yankees, and it's clear that many of his teammates believe that it's a different pitcher who will take the mound on Saturday after pulling off such a dramatic win.And it's no surprise to them that Bonderman's dramatic outing came after a stellar performance from, Rogers who has been a sort of mentor to him this season. "Bonderman has always been a great pitcher with a great arm, and now that he's around Kenny, I think this is when he's really taken the next step to learning how to pitch," third baseman Brandon Inge said. "When you take Bonderman, with the ability that he has, and combine it with the knowledge Kenny has, the sky is the limit for what Bonderman can now do." With all the turmoil that Bonderman has faced in the past, the focus now is on what he can do to rectify the ups and downs. And that means helping secure another clincher, with this one locking up a trip for the club to the Fall Classic. "This is a shot of a lifetime to go to the World Series," Bonderman said. "And I want to do the best I can to give my team the opportunity to go there."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.