SEATTLE -- Jeremy Bonderman seemingly isn't on the comeback trail, but he came back to visit his former teammates Wednesday morning with a stop at Safeco Field. He made the three-hour trip from his home in Pasco, Wash., to see the club for which he pitched eight seasons before becoming a free agent over the winter.
Bonderman's remarks to reporters were limited. He said he's feeling "great," and he's planning to see the team in Detroit in a few weeks. That would seem to rule out any idea that the unsigned right-hander is pitching again anytime soon.
For many Tigers, it was the first time seeing Bonderman since last October, when he was still in a Detroit uniform. He openly held out hope at the time that he could return, but the Tigers made it clear they planned on going in a different direction with their rotation. Bonderman had talks with other teams, but never signed over the winter.
Zumaya to rehab six more weeks
SEATTLE -- Joel Zumaya will try to rehab his ailing right elbow for another six weeks rather than undergo exploratory surgery that would likely sideline him for the remainder of the season, Tigers head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said Wednesday.
Zumaya tried rest and rehab already, and came up with discomfort in his first throwing session back. But with his chances of pitching in 2011 "remote" in doctors' eyes if he has surgery, according to Rand, he's going to give it another try.
"The timetable is not favorable for him in 2011 [if he has surgery]," Rand said, "so he'll undergo another six weeks of rest, rehab, strengthening."
Zumaya, who underwent season-ending surgery last summer to repair a fractured bone at the tip of his elbow, hasn't thrown off a mound since his only Spring Training appearance Feb. 27. Multiple MRI exams and other tests have shown no major structural damage in his elbow, but the pain pops back up when he tries to throw. His 25-pitch session of catch earlier this month went fine for the first 24 pitches, Rand said, until he felt discomfort on the final throw.
So now, the process starts. He won't throw a ball until after the six-week process is over, so if he feels fine from there and progresses toward a return, he likely wouldn't be back until around midseason. It isn't anywhere near what Zumaya was hoping to get out of this season, but it beats the alternative.
Zumaya is eligible for free agency this winter, so any pitching he can do this year to demonstrate health would be a major help for his career, not just the Tigers' season.
Perry's return gives Tigers options in bullpen
SEATTLE -- Ryan Perry is back in the Tigers' bullpen, having been activated from the 15-day disabled list as expected Wednesday morning. Alberto Alburquerque, the reliever indirectly replacing him for the past week or so, did not go back. Instead, long reliever Enrique Gonzalez was outrighted to Triple-A Toledo.
The result: Manager Jim Leyland has some mixing and matching he can do to get through the seventh inning with a lead without potentially burning his young, untested arms.
That option came in handy Wednesday afternoon, when Leyland didn't have a good feeling about starter Rick Porcello facing Jack Wilson with two outs in the seventh as the potential tying run in a 3-1 game.
"To me, it was a no-brainer," Leyland said. "He wanted one more [batter], but I just didn't like it. To me, that's what Perry's here for."
Or more accurately, that's what the Tigers brought Perry across the country for. The fact that he struck out Wilson, preserving the lead for setup man Joaquin Benoit and closer Jose Valverde, no doubt made it an easier trip back to Detroit for Perry.
It's a little unusual to think of the 24-year-old reliever as the experienced arm, but after the better part of two seasons and 115 appearances in the Tigers' bullpen, Perry qualifies. Of Detroit's current relievers, only Valverde and Benoit have more Major League appearances.
Perry missed two weeks with a left eye infection, but his arm was perfectly fine. He could throw in the bullpen and on the side; he just didn't have the eyesight to pitch in games until he was cleared to wear his contact lenses again last week. Once that happened, he basically just had to work back into game condition during his two rehab outings for Triple-A Toledo.
Perry said he felt fine with his pitches.
"I was able to work on my mechanics, do some extra work," Perry said. "For me, pitching is a lot of muscle memory, and I was able to work on all my stuff."
He was able to challenge Wilson with fastballs once he fell behind on a 3-1 count. Wilson fouled off the first, a 96 mph heater. He could only tip the second, which came at 93 mph into catcher Omir Santos' mitt.
"That's what Ryan Perry is down there for," Leyland said. "And he did a heckuva job. That was a huge out."
It was bigger than simply preserving the score, Leyland said. By retiring Wilson, it ensured that ninth hitter Chris Gimenez would lead off the eighth inning, rather than All-Star Ichiro Suzuki.
If Perry can shore up the seventh inning, he should allow Alburquerque and fellow rookie Brayan Villarreal some room to work on their stuff in more select situations.
Gonzalez had to clear waivers before being outrighted, which means the Tigers had pegged him before he walked four batters while retiring five Tuesday night. The 28-year-old right-hander was somewhat of a surprise pick for the Opening Day bullpen before giving up seven runs on eight hits over 5 1/3 innings, with six walks and two strikeouts.
Raburn getting more time at second base
SEATTLE -- Ryan Raburn spent Spring Training working in the Tigers' outfield. He didn't start working out at second base again until manager Jim Leyland mentioned it going into this road trip. Wednesday marked his second start at second base in this three-game series against the Mariners.
Though Leyland mentioned in Spring Training that Raburn could play second base on occasion, it isn't difficult to determine that this wasn't part of the plan. With the Tigers looking for offense wherever they can find it at the moment, though, Leyland is going to use his roster's versatility where he can. Raburn, of course, is among the most versatile of the bunch.
"I'm trying to get some thunder in there," Leyland said. "There's been a lot of games this year where [Will] Rhymes has hit the ball good but hasn't had a lot to show for it, but that enables me to get [Brennan] Boesch in there, get Magglio playing.
"I'm trying to search for some thump, maybe some extra-base hits now and then. That's what that's all about. We have to try to do something."
Raburn provided a thump in his first at-bat Wednesday, driving an Erik Bedard pitch deep to straightaway center field for his second home run of the year. He entered the day 4-for-27 through six games on the road trip, and without an extra-base hit since he doubled in the series opener at Oakland last Thursday.
If he keeps working, he could get more time, including some starts against right-handed pitchers while Rhymes tries to find his stroke.
As for Raburn's defense, Leyland said, "I trust him at second base, without question."
Part of that trust, though, includes realistic expectations given the workload. He hasn't been an everyday second baseman in several years, and he isn't going to be now. But if he hits, he's an option.
"If you do something like that, you're willing to live with the results," Leyland said. "And if you're not, you shouldn't do it. I'm willing to live with it."