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Jeremy Bonderman is back on minor-league deal

The Tigers signed Jeremy Bonderman to pitch for Triple-A Toledo. Does he have any chance at a return to Detroit?

Jeremy Bonderman pitching for Detroit in 2010
Jeremy Bonderman pitching for Detroit in 2010
Ezra Shaw

Jeremy Bonderman was signed by the Tigers to pitch for Toledo. Your reaction may be stunned disbelief.

Bonderman was an integral part of the Tigers' World Series appearance in 2006. At his peak he could strike out more than eight per nine innings, with less than three walks per nine innings. Injuries ended his time in Detroit in 2010. He sat out 2011 and 2012, but made a comeback attempt with Seattle this year. His eleven starts in Triple-A were rather unimpressive, with a low strikeout rate, WHIP of nearly 1.5, and ERA of 4.52. But he was promoted to Seattle anyway, where his seven starts showed more walks than strikeouts, a WHIP of nearly 1.5, and ERA of nearly 5. He was released. So why would the Tigers bother signing him?

First, the cost is very low. This is not a major league contract. He will not take up a spot on the 40 man roster, so the opportunity cost is also low. He will replace a starter in Toledo. The Tigers have had an abundance of starting pitching prospects in recent years, but now they are all at the lower levels. They can afford to take a flier on a spot in Toledo's rotation.

The Mud Hens have Jose Alvarez, who we know from his spot starts in Detroit and is the one bright light in Toledo's rotation. They have Shawn Hill, who has one win and twelve losses. They had Derek Hankins with a strikeout rate of 4 1/2 per nine innings, and he just left to follow Adam Wilk to Korea. They have Pat Misch with an ERA over 5. Ramon Garcia takes a turn, and his ERA is over 6. Duane Below made four effective starts, but is gone to Miami. Robbie Weinhardt has even made two starts. Kyle Lobstein has been promoted from Double-A Erie. His four starts have produced an abundance of base runners.

Bonderman is only 30 years old, having made his big league debut at the tender age of 20. That was the painful 2003 season where they shut him down at the end of the year to avoid 20 losses. Maybe he can find his nasty slider. Maybe he can finally develop that change-up. Maybe he can have a Scott Kazmir-like renaissance. His statistics say that it is all highly unlikely, but it is worth a shot. Because if the Tigers lose a starter, Jose Alvarez gets the nod. But if they lose two starters, it is anybody's guess.