SEATTLE — Jeremy Bonderman says his two-year break from pitching in the majors has done him some good.
Bonderman signed a minor-league contract with the Mariners on Friday and will come to spring training looking to win a job in the team's starting rotation. He's throwing again after undergoing "Tommy John" ligament transplant surgery in April, dropped 30 pounds by changing his diet and no longer feels burned out by baseball like he once did.
"I just thought it would be a good idea to give it one last shot," Bonderman, 30, a longtime Detroit Tigers starter and former first-round pick of the Oakland Athletics, said by phone after agreeing to the deal.
The Mariners were one of a handful of teams to express interest in Bonderman, and their proximity to his home, where he's helping raise two children, ages 6 and 3, made it a good fit. Nobody came to see Bonderman throw before the deal, though he's been doing so for several months in a "shop" he built for himself in a steel hangar-type of building near his home.
It took him a while to get comfortable throwing again. But soon, he was convinced his comeback could resume at the big-league level.
He's been working out six days a week, dropping his oldest child off at school and then hitting the gym for several hours. The potato chips and soda he used to enjoy are now out of his home and he no longer eats late-night meals.
He has dropped 30 pounds to roughly 215, the same weight he carried when he was drafted by the A's in 2001. Bonderman made his big-league debut at age 20, was the opening day starter for the Tigers by 2005 and went 14-8 with a 4.08 earned-run average over 214 innings with Detroit during their World Series finalist run in 2006.
He got off to a fast start in 2007 after signing a four-year, $38 million deal, but won just four games in the second half. He missed most of 2008 with a blood clot, made just one start in 2009 before a shoulder injury sidelined him.