Tigers success in Friday's twinbill will be indicated by how much they have to use Bonderman
DETROIT — The MVP of Friday’s doubleheader for the Tigers might just be Jeremy Bonderman. Even if he’s not needed.
With the Tigers’ bullpen strapped by the absence of two key late relievers heading into 18 innings or more of baseball against the Royals, using Bonderman judiciously may be the key to the Tigers being able to pull off a sweep.
The longtime Tigers starter, now in his second tour of duty with the team, and now functioning as the squad’s long reliever, may be called upon to piggyback after rookie Jose Alvarez, who is making his fifth career start in the nightcap. Justin Verlander starts the opener.
Using Bonderman right will be big. Not having to use him at all would be even bigger.
“I gotta watch the Bonderman situation, because I got the kid pitching the second game, and I need a long man. That’s why I was panicking last night when Sanchie (Anibal Sanchez) had a bunch of pitches early on,” manager Jim Leyland said. “Because I was just hoping — I am still hoping — to save Bondo. If I need him for Verlander, we’re going to lose the game. I’m hoping to have Bondo for the second game, to pick up the kid, if I need to do that.”
If possible, Leyland would love not to have to use Bonderman in the opener, meaning he needs Verlander to go deep, just like he did Sanchez the night before. After throwing 30 pitches in the first inning, Sanchez settled down, and went 7 1/3 innings, giving Leyland just what he’d asked for.
“Well, if you watched the game last night, you know both managers were trying to milk innings out of their starters, because of the situation,” Leyland said. “Hopefully, he (Verlander) will be good today.
“A complete game wouldn’t piss me off at all.”
Sanchez did what he could to save the bullpen, but the 4-1 score still dictated that Leyland employ two of his top back-end options, using Bruce Rondon to finish off the eighth, then closer Joaquin Benoit to finish the game out.
Now it’s likely neither of those two will be available for Friday’s twinbill.
“I’m not sure I can (use Benoit). I’ll check, but I’m not going to take any chances. Might not be able to use him. Not sure about Rondon, either,” said Leyland, taking no chances with Benoit, who has yet to throw in three straight games this season. “But that’s the way it goes. We had to win a game in Chicago, had to win a game last night. I can’t fool around with stuff like that. You gotta try to win.”
The Tigers (71-49) did win both, including the opener of the five-game series with the Royals. At least splitting Friday’s doubleheader would mean that the Tigers could lose a maximum of one game in the standings to Kansas City over the course of the series.