Jeremy Bonderman remembers the first time he tried to thow a baseball a couple of months ago, having undergone “Tommy John” ligament transplant surgery last April. He’d built himself “a shop” in a steel hangar type of building, put a mound inside of it and picked up a baseball.
“It was kind of weird,” he told me today. “I had no idea what to expect.”
Bonderman hadn’t pitched in the majors since 2010. When he was finally diagnosed with the torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, he decided to take the year off and see what happened.
“I just thought it would be a good idea to give it one last shot,” he said.
The first try at that came inside the steel hangar, not far from his Pasco home.
“It took me a while to get comfortable again,” he said.
Once the throwing progressed, he began working out six days a week.
“I just get up, get my kid to school, go to the gym a couple of hours a day,” he said.
Bonderman also changed his eating habits and dropped 30 pounds.
“I’ve changed a lot of the things we keep in the house,” he said. “No pop. No chips. I try to eat before it gets too late in the day. Just taking better care of myself.”
Bonderman said nobody has measured the velocity of his pitches yet. He did not stage any tryout sessions for teams to come and look at him beforehand.
He says he’d had a few interested teams and the Mariners seemed like a good fit, given how close Seattle is to his home. He’ll stay in the Tri-Cities area over the holidays, then head to Peoria around Jan. 10 to start working out at the team’s spring training facility about five weeks before pitchers and catchers are due to report.
For now, he’s excited at the opportunity. His two children, ages 6 and 3, are “getting a kick out of seeing me do this” and the Mariners have told him he’ll have a chance to compete for a starting rotation job. Bonderman made millions playing in the majors up until his injury and admits he hasn’t really done anything outside the game in the time he’s been sidelined.
“I guess I’ll have to find something else to do, eventually,” he said with a chuckle.
For now, though, this is what he wants to be doing. And he’s giving it one final shot.