Bonderman on schedule, Zumaya not
Starter to throw 30 pitches Saturday, but reliever dealing with injury
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya will not throw in a simulated game as the club had scheduled for Saturday morning, but Jeremy Bonderman will. His scheduled 30 pitches, and how he feels afterwards from throwing them, will have a big effect on Detroit's rotation going into the season.
Zumaya hasn't pitched in a Spring Training game since he faced Florida Southern College on March 2, after which he experienced right shoulder soreness and had an exam as a precaution. Saturday was expected to be his first game action since then, albeit a simulated one, but he was scratched due to a muscle cramp or spasm between his neck and right shoulder.
Head athletic trainer Kevin Rand compared the muscle issue to a knot, and he pointed out that it is different from the injury that sidelined him. Still, it's enough to make them want to exercise caution and hold him back until it loosens up, rather than risk him trying to compensate for it and possibly suffering another injury.
Fernando Rodney also was originally scheduled to pitch in the simulated game, stretching out to about 30 pitches. Since he had a long inning his last time out on Wednesday, loading the bases on two hits and a walk, manager Jim Leyland said that won't happen on Saturday.
That leaves Bonderman and left-hander Kyle Bloom as the primary pitchers from Major League camp in the game. It also leaves Bonderman as the pitcher who can answer a major question for the Tigers with a healthy performance.
If Bonderman comes through OK, he'll return to regular game action next Thursday against the Braves at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex, and he'll be on track to start the season.
"If he's OK, I think we have enough time to get him ready," Leyland said.
If Bonderman has lingering issues, the question of whether he'll be ready when the season begins becomes a pressing issue that the Tigers have to address.
Since camp began, Leyland had been counting Bonderman as one of four set spots in the rotation as long as he's healthy. He's hesitant to do that right now, not quite yet, until he sees him Saturday.
Asked if he needs to start pitching Thursday to have enough time to prepare for the season, Leyland said, "I think it starts [Saturday]."
The four set rotation spots basically left the fifth spot as a competition among the remaining starting candidates, including Nate Robertson, Dontrelle Willis, Zach Miner and Rick Porcello. If Bonderman isn't ready when the season starts, his replacement would come from one of those candidates, Leyland said, unless the Tigers bring in another pitcher in a trade.
Detroit had another injury issue pop up on Friday, when outfielder Casper Wells was unavailable with continued soreness in his elbow. He was being examined by a doctor on Friday, but no results were immediately available.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.