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04/14/10 10:15 PM ET

Plenty of pitching buzz for Tigers, Mariners

Entering the year, an early-season matchup between Felix Hernandez and Jeremy Bonderman might not have seemed that intriguing.

But that was before Bonderman impressed in his debut, picking up his first win in nearly two years, in a 4-2 victory over Cleveland. In the start, he limited the Tribe to one run on one hit over five innings, a performance that showed he still can be very effective on a Major League mound.

And Hernandez? Well, he's always good for a pitching showdown.

So Friday night's opener between the Seattle Mariners and the Detroit Tigers will feature two different pitchers. One, Hernandez, who is established and carries a record of dominance and another, Bonderman, who is ready to take his next step on the road toward becoming a consistent Major League pitcher and reaching his potential.

Bonderman's performance in his debut was the first step on that road, but a big one, according to his manager, Jim Leyland.

"That was really Jeremy Bonderman the pitcher," Leyland said, "not Jeremy Bonderman the 95-96-mph fastball, hard slider. He pitched, and that's the adjustment that he's going to have to make. We're tickled to death today. That's progress, and that's something you have to build on."

Bonderman's ability to get ahead of hitters enabled his newest pitch, the splitter, to become effective, resulting in five strikeouts.

"I was able to get guys looking for other stuff," Bonderman said.

Hernandez, in his first two games of the season, has continued to churn out quality starts for the Mariners. Despite swallowing two no-decisions in the early going, Hernandez has pitched effectively, save a few bouts of wildness in the opener, in which he handed out six free passes.

His catcher, Rob Johnson, attributed that to adrenaline and a small strike zone in the opener against Oakland.

"It's good to get that first game out of the way," said Johnson. "He was pretty amped."

Until the Mariners see the return of Cliff Lee to their rotation, winning the games that Hernandez starts has become a priority -- and Hernandez has kept the team in a strong position to win thus far.

Tigers: Damon picks up 1,000th career RBI
In Wednesday's loss to the Royals, Johnny Damon knocked in the 1,000th run of his career, on an RBI double in the fifth. The RBI gave Damon four on the season and highlighted his 2-for-5 day at the plate. ... With a double in the second, Brandon Inge continued his hit streak. Inge has now hit in nine straight games to open the season.

Mariners: Offense rebounds
Seattle's offense came to life Wednesday, racking up 11 hits in a 4-2 win for the series victory against the A's. Ichiro Suzuki and Chone Figgins scored runs in the fifth inning, marking the first time they had crossed the plate in the same inning in 87 frames.

All four of Seattle's runs Wednesday came with two outs.

"You don't ever want to have a bad week, especially not the first week of the season," Mariners hitting coach Alan Cockrell said. "But if this was in the middle of things and we were in the 11th or 12th week of the year and we had a bad week, everyone would say we're having a bad week. We are a better club than we've shown. We'll be all right."

Also this week, Milton Bradley's three-run homer in Tuesday's win over Oakland ended a streak of 20 scoreless innings.

Worth noting
Damon should be one of the few Tigers happy to see Hernandez on the hill. The veteran outfielder sports eight hits in 13 career at-bats (.615) against the Mariners' co-ace. Miguel Cabrera shouldn't mind either -- he carries a .545 (6-for-11) mark against Hernandez. ... Bradley is 4-for-10 vs. Bonderman.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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