Jeremy Bonderman’s return to the mound after 975 days is a poignant human-interest story, but for it to have any long-term juice, he’s going to have to pitch well at the major-league level. And on Sunday, in the Mariners’ 10-0 loss to the Twins, he was, to put it mildly, tattooed. In 4 2/3 innings, Bonderman gave up three homers, a triple, three doubles and two singles, good for seven runs.
“It was a lot of fun to walk out there and get back on the field and try to help the team win,’’ Bonderman said. “But obviously you have to pitch better than that. I felt really good, actually. I just made some mistakes and left some balls up. Obviously, at this level you can’t do it. It wasn’t a very good day.
“I’m just going to try and work harder. It’s basically all I can do. Just keep grinding and try to work the bottom half of the zone. To be successful at this level, that’s where you have to pitch. And I didn’t do that today.”
Bonderman, 30, admitted he wasn’t sure this day would ever come after Tommy John surgery and two other thoracic procedures. The Pasco resident signed a minor-league contract with the Mariners in January and had been toiling all season with Tacoma.
“I never knew if I’d ever get back,’’ he said. “I just wanted to work hard and leave it all out there so I didn’t have anything to be disappointed in, or to look back and say I could’ve done this or I could’ve done that.
“I just appreciated being out on that field again. It’s not something you can take for granted. You just have to find a way to be better.”
Bonderman deserves admiration for his hard work and perseverance in coming back. But he’s going to have to show something more, and fast, for this to have a happier ending.
I’m sure I wasn’t alone in wondering if Bonderman would even get another start, but when I asked Eric Wedge that question after the game, he didn’t even hesitate.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “He just has to go out there and take what he learned from this and make the adjustments. Have a good work day. He can’t let this one beat him up. It’s his first time back in a while and that’s significant, too. Have some good work days and go out there and just be better next time.”
Nonetheless, I’m sure the Mariners were watching Erasmo Ramirez’s start closely in Tacoma today. It’s his second minor-league start since sitting out the early part of the season with an arm injury. The first start was in Double-A Jackson. Facing Sacramento today, he worked 5 2/3 innings, giving up six hits, two runs (earned), with three walks and four strikeouts. He gave up one home run.
Ramirez threw 92 pitches, which tells me he’s close to being ready. If the Mariners do indeed give Bonderman another start, I would bet it would be his last chance to show that his situation has any chance of working out. Ramirez was projected to be in the Mariners rotation this year, and if he’s healthy and able to pitch, they need to get him in there. The inconsistency in the back end of the rotation has been a major problem for the Mariners this year, and they can’t afford to nurse along a struggling 30-year-old pitcher, as much as you want to root for Bonderman.
The Mariners, meanwhile, showed nothing at the plate today — five hits, all singles, and just one runner as far as second base (that in the first inning). Not too surprising considering the 6-7-8 slot was comprised of what I called the “Tacoma gauntlet” — Alex Liddi, Carlos Triunfel and Jesus Sucre. But, really, even the more established players couldn’t solve the Twins today. I asked Raul Ibanez if there was any hangover from Saturday’s devastating loss.
“There shouldn’t be,’’ he said. “Yesterday’s over. And just like yesterday’s over, today’s over. We need to get after it tomorrow and put together another nice run here. We’re capable of doing that.”
Nor is Ibanez buying into the notion that the Mariners, who begin a 10-game homestand against the White Sox Monday, are being victimized by bad breaks, or disconcerted by the numerous roster moves in recent days.
“I’m a firm believer in creating your own breaks,’’ he said. “As a team, I think we have that mindset, create our own destiny, and we’re very capable of doing that. If we want things to change, we have to change them, and we’re very capable of doing that.
“I would say we’re masters of our own destiny. Whatever the outside circumstances are, our job is to focus on winning and doing it together as a team. Regardless of what moves are going on, we have to get it done on the field.”
And right now, that’s not happening.