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