DETROIT -- Gerald Laird asks only for his pitchers to give him a fighting chance when it comes to throwing out basestealers. After a slow start, he's getting a chance to fight back on opposing running games.
Two weeks ago, opponents had stolen 12 bases in 15 tries with Laird behind the plate, and Tigers starting pitchers were struggling to hold runners. Since then, he has thrown out three runners in five attempts, including two Angels on Saturday. It hasn't altogether reversed his numbers -- his caught stealing rate stood at 30 percent entering Sunday -- but it's a start.
Of particular interest was the fact that the two throw-outs came with Jeremy Bonderman on the mound. The right-hander had struggled to hold runners in his previous starts. Opponents were 4-for-4 running on Bonderman, including two from the Angels in their previous meeting April 21 out west.
Laird actually stole more bases than he gave up Saturday. His eighth-inning swipe of second base was not only his first of the year, but his first attempt. Add in a quality tag on Hideki Matsui trying to score in the sixth inning, and it was a pretty good afternoon from Laird on a day when he went hitless.
"I didn't contribute at the plate, but I tried to do the best I can defensively," Laird said.
Bonderman continuing to progress
DETROIT -- Jeremy Bonderman's pitching remains a work in progress. Saturday's outing was a good bit of progress, as far as the Tigers are concerned.
It isn't simply about the numbers, though a lone earned run over six innings marked Bonderman's statistically strongest outing this season. It was about a mix of pitch command and arm strength that seems to be getting better for him.
Bonderman averaged just over 91 mph on his fastball, according to data from MLB.com's Gameday application. That's two miles per hour higher than what he averaged his previous outing, according to brooksbaseball.net, and higher than any of his other outings this season. His top fastball came in at 94, a mark he hadn't reached since shoulder surgery, and likely hadn't seen since 2007.
Just as important, Bonderman was also able to command with good velocity. He fourth and final strikeouts of the day was a 93-mph fastball at the knees for a called third strike on Bobby Abreu. Almost as encouraging was an increasing use of the splitter as his offspeed, which induced some swings and misses.
"I'm very pleased with him," manager Jim Leyland said. "He's getting better. He's adjusting to the art of pitching more than he's ever had to -- and doing a pretty good job. I'm very pleased with that. We just have to continue to build on that."
Bonderman has approached the art of pitching from the standpoint of having to get used to pitching without his old velocity. If he can get that fastball back, he said, it would be a bonus.
Cabrera, Zumaya top Tigers for April
DETROIT -- Strong comebacks earned April honors for first baseman Miguel Cabrera and reliever Joel Zumaya, who were named the Tigers' Player and Pitcher of the Month, respectively.
Cabrera, who ended last season in a slump after making headlines in the final weekend, showed the value of a fresh start after a strong Spring Training. He batted .344 (33-for-96) with 16 runs scored, 11 doubles, five home runs and 25 RBIs over 24 games. All five of his home runs either put the Tigers in front or erased a deficit, including a pair of ninth-inning shots.
Cabrera is also expected to be a strong contender for American League Player of the Month honors.
Zumaya missed the final two months of last season to remove a bone fragment from a stress fracture in his right shoulder. He has put his health on display from the outset of the season, getting his fastball back up to 101 mph on radar guns on his way to 16 strikeouts over 14 2/3 April innings. He went 2-0 for the month with a 1.23 ERA.
The monthly honors were decided by voting among local media members.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.