Bondo’s elbow is doing more than barking

After Jeremy Bonderman’s last start we heard mixed reports of “pain”, “fine”, and “barking.” Now his elbow is toast and he looks to be done for the season:

He admitted afterward that he is feeling a “sharp pain” on the outside of his elbow, and Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Bonderman would “probably” be shut down indefinitely.

“I’m done for awhile,” Bonderman said. “I know that.”

Now Bonderman is off to get an MRI and find out the extent of the damage. In any case he should most definitely not pitch again this year and hopefully he won’t need ligament replacement surgery, aka Tommy John Surgery which would keep him off a mound for 9 months.

When the reports surfaced last week I had this to say:

If he’s fine then let him pitch, but a macho “we’re in a pennant race and the team needs him, rub some dirt on it” approach would be foolhardy. I don’t know all the details, and the Tigers have exercised considerable caution with their pitchers so I trust that if he’s pitching in his next start the team is confident that it won’t do further harm. But I don’t like the sound of it regardless.

It seems as if I put way too much faith in the organization to have properly checked him out before today’s start. (ed note: this isn’t a fair statement for me to make. the last thing the org wants to do is risk injuring any player and I’m far from qualified to judge what properly checking him out would be) I would have assumed the MRI would have already been done as a means to clear him to start.

An elbow injury would certainly explain many of Bonderman’s second half struggles and I wouldn’t be surprised if this dated back to his horrendous start in Anaheim in July. Bonderman had shown an improvement in his walk rate from 2004 on, and it had really dropped early this year. But since that July 29th start he walked 20 in 46.3 innings while only fanning 31 as hitters posted a 954 OPS against him. Prior to that start he had made 19 starts amassing 126.7 innings and only issued 26 walks while fanning 113. There is a clear and marked difference.

And if you look at the graph, you can see in 2005 he experienced a similar loss of control late in the season as he was shut down with elbow pain (and a line drive off his arm).

Jeremy Bonderman may not have been saying anything recognizing the dire injury straits the Tigers were already in. Maybe he shouldn’t have tried to be a hero, but on a team where many have questioned heart and dedication it is hard to fault him for trying. I’m just wondering where Chuck Hernandez was in all of this. You have a pitcher who has shown growth in his peripherals throughout his young career, and who was pitching very well early in the season. And he suddenly can’t find the strike zone and his pitches become very hittable for a protracted amount of time and yet he can’t be fixed.

Whether the problems were mechanical, technique, or as it turns out to be injury related, who was watching the shop? Shouldn’t the fact that things couldn’t be corrected have highlighted a bigger problem?

Yes I’m second guessing after the fact, and maybe I’m just pissed off with the way the season is going,. And Bonderman shares some culpability in not bringing the problem to anyone’s attention. And I have no idea what took place in all those bullpen sessions and how often the coaches were asking him if he was okay only to be rebuffed. But looking back now it appears to be a case of considerable negligence.

Bonderman: ‘I’m done for awhile’, MRI scheduled for tomorrow


  1. Stephen

    September 9, 2007 at 9:34 pm

    Wow, Billfer good stuff. Well done.

  2. Mike R

    September 9, 2007 at 9:50 pm

    Jeremy Bonderman may not have been saying anything recognizing the dire injury straits the Tigers were already in. Maybe he shouldn’t have tried to be a hero, but on a team where many have questioned heart and dedication it is hard to fault him for trying.

    BINGO! That is exactly my sentiments as well.

    Very well put together, Billfer. This is why I love this blog.

  3. Michael

    September 9, 2007 at 9:51 pm

    Well, from what we were seeing, the FB was not that much off in velocity, but the slider has been inconsistant. His injury is basically affecting the command he has, which may not come up in the side sessions. Unless they catch him grimacing, shaking the arm, or he losses stuff, not much the staff can do. Every pitcher has issues in September and jeremy is a vetern so they would go by what he says to them. I can’t blame the Tigers much on this, as compared to what happened to Sleeth and their messing with his mechanics.

  4. cib

    September 9, 2007 at 10:13 pm

    It’s just part of a deluge of bad luck that we’ve had all season. I know “that’s baseball” but if one more person says that to me I can’t be responsible for what occurs!!!
    Great info, Billfer.

  5. Jim

    September 9, 2007 at 10:21 pm

    Velocity on his fastball seemed fine throughout this but the command and control lacked quite a bit. This is pretty big.

    What’s our rotation now?

  6. cib

    September 9, 2007 at 10:23 pm

    How fast do you throw, Jim?? (sorry, gotta laugh to keep from crying)

  7. Mike R

    September 10, 2007 at 1:18 am

    My guess it’s Verlander/Rogers/Robertson/Durbin and a combo of possibly Miner, Bazardo, Virgil Vasquez. Is Tata up? I haven’t looked over who we all called up after Toledo was eliminated.

  8. MSL

    September 10, 2007 at 7:14 am

    You mentioned Hernandez and I think you are right to bring up his name in this. I’ve been questioning him for at least a couple of months now. Look at all the problems are pitching staff has had, with very little changes for the better. The bullpen has been very shaky all year. Bonderman has had first-inning struggles most of the year. Every starter has been inconsistent. Then this matter with Bonderman. In my opinion, fixing those problems (and overcoming injuries, which are a fact of the game and happen to every team, every year) is the job of the pitching coach. If Hernandez can’t do the job, then we need to look for someone else.
    I’m not putting a ton of hope in our postseason chances (especially after last night’s loss and the Bonderman news), but I am thankful that we are at least in the running, and that “there’s always next year” which in the case of this team, I feel is pretty hopeful. Let’s look for improvements at SS (move Guillen to 1st), LF, catcher, bullpen and possibly 3b. One solid LH bat at LF, catcher, SS or 3b could go a long way.
    Finally, others have mentioned the Maroth trade, which I am still upset about. It was a rash move. I know he has struggled some in the NL, but I think he would have fared better staying with us. At the time we traded him, he was 5-2, 4.19. Not bad! We had six starters. So what? Stick one in the pen or Miller in the minors until someone gets injured or falters, which pretty much always happens. Rogers was barely back from his injury and no sure thing, which now is obvious. And what did we get for it? Bad move, guys

  9. Jim

    September 10, 2007 at 8:39 am


    I throw what I like to call a hanging knuckleball.

  10. Mark in Chicago

    September 10, 2007 at 11:52 am


    I respectfully disagree with some of your points. It’s fashionable to blame Hernandez now, but the bullpen struggled because they were missing Zumaya and Rodney for the bulk of the year, not because he couldn’t coach. The bullpen was very solid last year, when guys were healthy, and Hernandez deserves some credit for that. I find it hard to believe he forgot how to coach since then. You are correct every starter has been inconsistent, and I recognize that Hernandez probably shares some of that blame. But if Nate can’t throw strikes, or Bonderman hangs an 0-2 slider, is that his fault they can’t execute. Plus Rogers has been out most of the year, so it’s been a patchwork approach to the rotation. I would point out that Chad Durbin got noticeably better in the rotation as the season went on, so I think we have to consider the whole picture here. A lot of their struggles have been due to injury. Not an excuse, just a fact.

    As for Maroth, he had nothing left to contribute. He was 5-2 with a 5.06 ERA and a 1.66 WHIP when he was traded. That is not good. He’s gotten shelled in St. Louis, and may still not have recovered from having bone chips removed. I wonder where your statement “I think he would have fared better with us” comes from. It sounds as if you are blaming Hernandez in one sentence, and then assuming he would do a better job with Maroth than Dave Duncan. That appears to be an inconsistency. If it’s not attributable to the coaching, then what, exactly, makes you think Maroth would have done better here than in St. Louis? I don’t think trading Maroth had any impact on the struggles of the pitching staff.

  11. Coach Jim

    September 10, 2007 at 12:00 pm

    Q: what do you call a knuckleball that doesn’t knuckle?

    A: batting practice

    Are all the injuries this year really a coincidence? I understand pointing to CH when the pitching goes bad, but it’s not just pitching performance being questioned. What about Kevin Rand and Javair Gillett?

  12. Scott

    September 10, 2007 at 12:14 pm

    I would think the problems with Bondo’s elbow goes back to all of the freaking sliders he throws. It’s a great pitch, but it takes a toll on the arm. We’ve seen this before in Detroit with Dan Petry. He was the same kind of pitcher as Bonderman – fastball and a slider. He was great for a few years, but his career ended early because his arm couldn’t hold up. I think Bonderman is going to have the same fate if he doesn’t develop a different secondary pitch to his fastball…. change up, curveball, whatever.
    Even if he wasn’t having these elbow problems, I think he should develop another pitch. With only two pitches, if either is even little off, he gets lit up because hitters can sit on the pitch that he is actually getting over the plate.

  13. Bill A \ Kal MI

    September 10, 2007 at 1:19 pm

    Mark, I gotta stick with MSL here

    but at the same time I think I have observed a pretty solid improvement in the middle relief– Durbin, Miner, and Seay in particular

    now it’s looking like Durbin is gonna have to take a starting spot probably at least for the rest of this year and it’s a good thing we have him to do that. we are gonna need him

    Vasquez had some promise at least I though he did, last night, and a couple other times. I’m hoping Jar is OK

    It was a tough August

    but in my view anyway, I think the Tigers are tougher for having gone through that

    Zoom– I’m looking for him to become a real lights-out shut-down guy, particularly if he keeps working on that wicked curve I seen him throw last time he was up. that was some cool stuff

    FR — can be good — but he ain’t always, and it leaves us to wonder why. again, that’s a job for coaching to solve

    like Maybin last night: why was he standing there and letting that fly ball drop in front of him? with the speed he has he sshould be able to charge that ball and put it away like Grandy does for us, and Maggs too.

    ya gotta wanna win if ya wanna be a winner. legendary coaches like Vince Lombardi know this and instill it into their players

    I ain’t tryin’ to do nothin’ here ‘cept throw a little somethin’ on the table to chew on

  14. Bill A \ Kal MI

    September 10, 2007 at 1:22 pm

    MSL: There’s so many promising players in the line up right now I don’t know where to start

  15. Mark in Chicago

    September 10, 2007 at 1:51 pm


    It sounds as though you too are on one hand condemming Hernandez for the struggles of the pitching staff, in particular the bullpen, and then applauding his efforts with respect to Durbin, Seay, and Miner. I am having a tough time understanding this viewpoint.

    And I’m not really sure what Hernandez can do to overcome injuries. Make Rogers not be injured any more? Make him recover quicker? CH is playing with the hand he’s dealt, and he can’t “coach” our replacement-level guys to win 15 games or post a sub-1.20 WHIP. The talent level isn’t there.

    I am not saying Hernandez has no role in all this, there very well could have been adjustments that could have been made. I am saying it’s not right to blame him entirely when we’ve stripped the pitching staff of 3 (and now 4) major contributors for large parts of the season.

    The pitching staff was excellent for the bulk of last year. Was it because Hernandez just let them be and didn’t coach? Hardly, he was in there working, just as he is now. Difference is, the overall talent level was better last year, because of the relative health of the staff.

    Furthermore, let’s propose we replace Chuck Hernandez. With whom do you suggest we replace him with?

  16. Joey C.

    September 10, 2007 at 2:57 pm

    It makes me sad to think that he was hurting this whole time and felt that he needed to keep throwing because the team was falling apart around him. Especially when I think of my own frustration with him not dialing up another gear when we needed him too.

    That being said, he should certainly know better than to risk a more serious injury by continuing to throw while hurt. I think cib nailed it yesterday when she made reference to Bonderman’s bean maybe not being the brightest bean around.

    As for the coaching staff bearing any responsibility for this, I’m not really sure of the protocol. From what I understand coaches absolutely rely on a pitcher giving an honest assessment of his health in order to troubleshoot evident problems. I mean if the kid is telling Chuck that he’s fine, what else does Chuck have to go on? He’s working under the assumption that Jeremy is telling him the truth and that the problem must lie somewhere else, so they focus on mechanics or psychology.

    Maybe Coach Jim can add something to this. Coach? Do you think a pitching coach or manager should be able to recognize an injury suffered by one of his pitchers based on control issues during games and bullpen sessions?

  17. cib

    September 10, 2007 at 3:57 pm

    Hi Joey, I agree that it’s sad if he played while in pain in order to try to help the team – and it certainly puts to rest the issues of “heart” that have been tossed around on this board – what I said about Bondo was not meant in a mean way, it’s just the facts, I saw him interviewed and he said himself that he barely made it out of high school, his whole life was about baseball. And he’s still just a kid with the pressure of having to be the “ace” or whatever.

    Related to this, everyone, if you did not see it last night be sure to catch the interview with Justin Verlander called “In His Own Words” probably repeating several times on FSN.

  18. Bill A \ Kal MI

    September 10, 2007 at 4:42 pm

    It sounds as though you too are on one hand condemning Hernandez for the struggles of the pitching staff, in particular the bullpen, and then applauding his efforts with respect to Durbin, Seay, and Miner. I am having a tough time understanding this viewpoint.


    it ain’t fair to only look for the bad or the good in something or anyone. like as not there is a mix

    ya gotta pick out the positives and build on those as well as working on areas for improvement

    sorta stuff coaches should be good at

  19. Bill A \ Kal MI

    September 10, 2007 at 4:50 pm

    From what I understand coaches absolutely rely on a pitcher giving an honest assessment of his health in order to troubleshoot evident problems. I mean if the kid is telling Chuck that he’s fine, what else does Chuck have to go on? He’s working under the assumption that Jeremy is telling him the truth and that the problem must lie somewhere else, so they focus on mechanics or psychology.

    did ya ever raise any kids? was ya ever a sergeant in the Army? Ya gotta know yer troops/kids/players and get them to put their confidence in you

    now I don’t know if all that’s goin’ on or not but I do find it interest’n I ain’t the only one pok’n under this rock

  20. Andrew

    September 10, 2007 at 5:24 pm

    Story in the Free Press said Bonderman’s injury is not serious. No ligament damage, just pinched cartilage, which I guess is good news. He’s still very likely done for the season though…

  21. Mark in Chicago

    September 10, 2007 at 5:32 pm


    Agreed, consider the whole picture, that is precisely my point. I was having a tough time with your statement (and MSL, who made the original statement) because you were both calling for Hernandez to “be replaced, if he can’t do the job”. My point was, he CAN do the job, and if we consider the whole body of his work, I don’t see a compelling reason to replace him.

    So for you to agree with MSL to replace him, and then defend him by saying he did a good job with some other guys doesn’t make sense to me. If he can do the job, why would we replace him?

    Again I would ask the question: who gets his job?

  22. Kathy

    September 10, 2007 at 5:47 pm

    My son just stopped by after work to tell me Bondo might be out for the season. He said “there isn’t anything wrong with his arm”. I asked him if he thought they were using the elbow thing as an excuse and he said yes.

  23. billfer

    September 10, 2007 at 6:43 pm

    Kathy –

    How does your son know that there isn’t anything wrong with Bondo’s arm?

  24. Kathy

    September 10, 2007 at 7:00 pm

    I’ts his opinion, Billfer. He thinks it’s an excuse.

  25. billfer

    September 10, 2007 at 7:07 pm

    I think the fact that he’s hurt provides a very realistic explanation for what has happened over the last month and a half. By watching his struggles and looking at the stats that back them up, an elbow injury fits perfectly and I view it to be a much more likely explanation than the other stuff touted out about mental weakness and the like.

  26. Kathy

    September 10, 2007 at 7:43 pm

    Well, I certainly don’t think he has a mental weakness. However, if they say he has a sore elbow, then that’s what it is. We’ll likely find out next spring.

  27. Mike R

    September 10, 2007 at 8:24 pm

    I think bashing of Chuck Hernandez for the pitching woes this year is just largely unfounded. If he’s this bad, would he have not hindered their growth last season? Injuries, bullpen roles out of whack, etc have all beat this staff up thus far. I will say that he’s not the best pitching coach in the world, but I don’t think he’s one to blame. Bonderman’s had 1st inning troubles his entire MLB career. Bondo has a 1.103 OPS against in the 1st inning (often overlooked, he’s got an OPS against of 1.003 in the 7th inning, as well). In his career for the first inning, he has a .919 OPS against. So it’s been a consistent problem.