DETROIT -- Finally, there are signs of progress again in Doug Fister's injury situation. The Tigers right-hander, sidelined since the first weekend of the season with a strained left rib cage muscle, played catch on Wednesday, and is now scheduled to have a mound session on Thursday morning.
It'll be the first time Fister has thrown off a mound since last week in Kansas City, where he felt pain again in that left side while throwing on back-to-back days. Since then, the Tigers have been relatively cautious about his progress to avoid a more severe setback, though manager Jim Leyland sounded upbeat after Fister underwent treatment on Monday.
Thursday's mound session won't put him on a timetable to return to game action by the end of the month, but it at least puts a return in sight. Adam Wilk made his third start in Fister's place on Wednesday night against the Mariners.
"It's kind of a wait-and-see thing," manager Jim Leyland said Wednesday afternoon.
Leyland hopes Tigers find mean streak
DETROIT -- While the Tigers echoed their goal of winning a World Series championship before a record gathering for their annual luncheon at the Detroit Economic Club, manager Jim Leyland told the crowd that his team might need a "mean streak" to do it.
Leyland made the remark while praising his team for being so easy for him and the coaches to work with.
"We just have a wonderful group of guys. In fact, to be honest with you, if we're going to win this thing, we've got to find that little mean streak that's in all of us," Leyland said. "We need that, and we're going to have to have that. We are going to need that little mean streak, I can assure you, that little swagger, because we're the hunted. But I'll take my chances with this group. We've got a lot of characters, a lot of wonderful guys with great, great personalities."
If that sounds familiar, it's similar to what he said about his first Tigers team back in 2006. During Spring Training that year, he had a lengthy talk with reporters about how that team needed a swagger, something that was hard to find from a franchise that hadn't finished with a winning record in a decade.
This team, obviously, has a lot more star power, but they also have a lot more teams targeting them, something Leyland also referenced in his speech.
"We have our stars that are nationally recognized, but I think the most important, the best part about our team, when our stars speak, we're a team of 25 guys," he said. "We work hard together, we have tremendous talent.
Leyland later added to that in his pregame remarks to reporters, saying it was "just a message to the fans and to the team."
As Leyland put it, "I've never really seen many good players or good teams that didn't have a little mean streak, a little selfishness in them, to be honest with you. I mean that in a good way. ... In our case, I think it's particularly important because a lot of people have talked about our club, blah blah blah. There's time to be a real nice guy and a gentleman, but it's not when the game starts. You have to have a little bit of [jerk] in you, if you want to know the truth."
Bonderman has Tommy John surgery
DETROIT -- Former Tigers starter Jeremy Bonderman confirmed on Wednesday that he underwent Tommy John surgery this week, in hopes of making a comeback next spring.
Buster Olney of ESPN.com first reported the news. Bonderman confirmed his plans in a phone interview on Wednesday afternoon with MLB.com, explaining his decision to give it one more try after disappearing from the game following the 2010 season.
"I just got the itch to give it another shot," Bonderman said. "I'm going to work out, try to get a team to give me a chance. Hopefully I can get a team to give me a shot."
Bonderman last pitched in 2010 with the Tigers, posting an 8-10 record and a 5.53 ERA in 30 games, 29 of them starts. He gave up 187 hits over 171 innings, with 60 walks and 112 strikeouts.
Bonderman said Wednesday that he blew out his elbow that offseason while working out. He said his elbow was fine when he was pitching in 2010, having come off surgery and shoulder problems that limited him the previous two years.
Bonderman said he didn't know the full extent of his elbow problems until he underwent a physical for the Cleveland Indians, who were interested in signing him. That deal obviously fell through once the results came back. A follow-up exam with noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. Lewis Yocum confirmed the damage.
After a year at home, he said, the itch came back. Once he's recovered enough, he hopes to work out with a trainer this summer, find a team willing to sign him to a Minor League contract, then give it another shot in the spring, when he'll be 30 years old.
Dirks expected to play on Thursday
DETROIT -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland didn't get a chance to use Andy Dirks' return to give Austin Jackaon a day out of the lineup on Wednesday like he had hoped. But he won't have to wait any longer on Dirks.
"Dirks is ready to go," Leyland said after Wednesday's loss. "He'll probably play [Thursday]."
If he does, it'll be his first game action in a week and a half, since he strained his left hamstring rounding third base against Kansas City. His absence is far from the main reason for the Tigers' struggles lately, but it sure hasn't helped. They've struggled to manufacture offense without him.
Leyland likely won't shake up the lineup with Dirks back, but he'll get another left-handed bat, one that had been swinging well before he was hurt.
Miguel Cabrera's home run on Tuesday was his 76th career home run at Comerica Park, moving him into a tie with Brandon Inge for the ballpark record. Cabrera has amassed his total in just 333 games there, including 75 homers in 330 games as a Tiger. Inge's home runs have come over 719 games.
Tigers top prospect Jacob Turner will make a second rehab start at Class A Lakeland on Saturday. Turner was a candidate for the Tigers' fifth starter job before shoulder tendinitis sidelined him in mid-March. He was optioned to Triple-A Toledo later in the month, but stayed back in Lakeland when the Mud Hens broke camp.
Brad Eldred continues to slug the ball at Triple-A Toledo. The Minor League free-agent signing from the winter hit his 13th home run in his 20th game this season Wednesday, helping power the Mud Hens past Columbus. The 31-year-old is batting .388 with 35 RBIs.