Jeremy Bonderman couldn’t hide the disappointment. He knew his chance to make the Seattle Mariners’ starting rotation out of spring training likely wilted in the desert sun Tuesday on the pitcher’s mound of Peoria Stadium.
The veteran right-hander had one last chance to convince Mariners manager Eric Wedge that he was healthy enough and strong enough to earn a spot in the rotation. It was a slim chance going in. And now, barring injury to a Mariners starting pitcher in the next five days, there is probably no chance.
Bonderman’s biggest start of the spring fell apart in the fifth inning of an eventual 11-6 loss to Kansas City, amid an avalanche of hits and runs that left him gassed and the Mariners with more questions than answers.
Bonderman’s first four innings were solid: one run on three hits. But after getting a quick out to start the fifth, he gave up a single to Chris Getz, a triple to Brett Hayes, then back-to-back RBI doubles to Jarrod Dyson and Alcides Escobar.
Things only got worse. He took a hard ground ball off the leg but was able to get Billy Butler out.
Bonderman stayed in the game but surrendered three straight
hits — an RBI single by Eric Hosmer, another single to Lorenzo Cain and a two-run double to Jeff Francoeur. He finally got Miguel Tejada to ground out to end the carnage.
“I was rolling along pretty well and then got smacked in the mouth,” said Bonderman, a Pasco High alum.
Perhaps more concerning than the hits was that Bonderman wore down as the fifth inning progressed. The velocity on his fastball dropped from 90-92 mph to 84-86 by the end of the inning.
“I was definitely tired,” he said. “I definitely had some fatigue.”
That fatigue has to be a concern to the Mariners. Bonderman is more than two years removed from throwing in a major league game and coming off offseason elbow surgery. The Mariners certainly can’t start a season with a starting pitcher who gets fatigued only 80 pitches into a game.
“He’s still getting into territories where he hasn’t really been yet in terms of pitch count and innings,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said.
Wedge had Bonderman start the sixth even after the bloody fifth.
“I felt it was important to go back out there and push himself along,” Wedge said.
Bonderman got the first out before giving up another hit to Hayes. The Mariners lifted him after that. He had thrown 89 pitches (63 strikes) and given up seven earned runs on 11 hits with a walk and two strikeouts in 5 innings.
It was Bonderman’s worst outing of the spring, and it came at the worst time.
“It wasn’t the first day I’ve had it happen, but definitely the wrong day,” he said.
Wedge has been careful not to let out any hints about the rotation, but he admitted that Bonderman’s return is still a work in progress that might need time in Tacoma to finish. He wouldn’t offer a direct comment on Bonderman’s future.
“We’ll see how he feels tomorrow and go from there,’’ Wedge said. “But, ultimately, it’s a unique situation. What we’re trying to do is put everybody in the best position to succeed and the best position to help us this year, whether it be right away or at some point in time later.’’
That speaks to the idea of Bonderman pitching for the Rainiers for a month or so to build up more strength and show he has the stamina to pitch at a high level.
Bonderman has remained steadfast in not discussing his future.
“They know what I can do; they have seen how far I have come this spring, so we will let them make the decision and move on from there,” he said.
As of now, it seems as though Blake Beavan and Brandon Maurer have locked up the final rotation slots. Wedge could announce the starting rotation in the next day or two.
“We are real close, but we still have to have some conversations, obviously,” he said. “I’m hoping we can get all squared away before we go to Salt Lake City.”
The Mariners leave for Salt Lake City on Friday afternoon and play the Rockies on Saturday.