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10/07/06 12:00 AM ET

Bonderman eager to close deal

Game 4 win would erase memory of lost AL Central title

DETROIT -- Jeremy Bonderman isn't prone to deep, analytical discussion when it comes to his performance in his final start of the regular season -- that nightmare of a Sunday against the Royals.

"I [stunk]," Bonderman said. "I don't know what to tell you."

Nor can Tigers manager Jim Leyland prognosticate as to whether that outing, in which Bonderman coughed up a 6-0 lead, will have lingering effects when the young right-hander gets the starting nod for Saturday afternoon's potential clincher in Game 4 of the ALDS against the Yankees.

"If I knew the answer, I could make a lot of money," Leyland said. "I don't really know. I just know he's one of our top pitchers. He's an excellent young pitcher. This time of year, I would expect we'll get a great effort from him."

The Tigers had better, because they now have the opportunity to dispose of the vaunted Yanks at home. A Game 5 at raucous Yankee Stadium is not the desired scenario. Detroit would much prefer to get Motown rocking with Bonderman on the hill.

Bonderman, 23, can now say that he has experience in a critical start, having been given the ball on Sunday with a division title on the line.

But he can't say he's experienced the win itself.

To get the job done this time around, Bonderman is hoping to take a cue from the Comerica Park crowd.

"I'm going to try and feed off it," he said. "I'm just going to go out and I'm going to let it all hang out. I'm just going to go out and give it everything I've got. When I walk off the mound, I'm going to leave everything I had out there."

To be successful, Bonderman will need his changeup. He can get by pretty well with his mid-90s fastball and slider against right-handers, but he needs the changeup against left-handers, who hit .350 off him during the regular season.

The Yankees will complicate matters in that department by trotting out their balanced lineup, which alternates left- and right-handed hitters.

"I'm going to pitch it just like I would anything," he said. "They're a great hitting team. Still, everybody's got weaknesses. You just have to expose them. That's what I'm going to try and do."

Bonderman should know the Yankees hitters inside and out by the time he takes the mound, having been a less-than-casual observer for the first three games of the series.

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"I'm taking everything I can in," he said. "I just tried to soak up as much as I could of the atmosphere. You never know if you'll ever get back. I'm looking forward to having my opportunity to go out there and hopefully win a ballgame."

A sprained right ankle that Bonderman pitched with at the tail end of the year won't prevent him from getting this opportunity. Leyland cast that injury, which didn't prevent Bonderman from making any of his starts, as little more than a "nagging ache and pain."

The biggest pain for Bonderman came in that no-decision against the Royals and the American League Central crown that was eventually lost that day.

If afforded a similarly sizable advantage against the Yankees, Bonderman hopes that he's learned enough to protect it.

"I was throwing the ball well and ended up trying to do too much," he said of Sunday's outing. "I threw a 3-2 breaking ball. You get yourself in trouble, instead of attacking the hitters and making them get themselves out."

That's where the analytical discussion ends. Then, Bonderman turns to the reality of what's ahead. And what's ahead could be one memorable game for Detroit.

"You know, the past games are the past," Bonderman said. "I'm going to be ready to go. I'm going to bring my best game and see what happens."

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.