- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Detroit Tigers could sure use a healthy and consistent season from Jeremy Bonderman. He got off to a good start Thursday night.

After missing most of last year following surgery to repair a circulatory condition in his shoulder, Bonderman gave up two hits in two scoreless innings during Detroit’s 5-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves in Kissimmee, Fla.

Bonderman’s return this spring was slowed by more soreness in his pitching shoulder. At one point, the right-hander returned to Detroit to be examined by team physicians.

“It’s been a long fight to get back,” he said. “It was a relief to go out there and throw again with no pain. I’m over the hump.”

Bonderman walked two and did not strike out a batter.

“My mechanics are not where I’d like them to be. There is a timing issue, but I’ll get stronger,” he said. “I’ll be sore tomorrow, but normal sore. I’ll be fine to throw again in five days. And the more I pitch, the stronger the arm will get.”

One of baseball’s biggest disappointments last season, the Tigers hope Bonderman can join a 2009 rotation that includes Justin Verlander, Armando Galarraga and Edwin Jackson.

Bonderman won 50 games from 2004-07, surpassing 174 innings in each of those seasons, before going 3-4 with a 4.29 ERA last year, when he was shut down in June.

Veteran lefty Dontrelle Willis, trying to land the fifth spot in Detroit’s rotation, allowed seven hits and five runs _ four earned _ in 2 2-3 innings.

Willis had his sore left hand wrapped in ice after the game. He hurt himself trying to catch a ball hit by Kelly Johnson but said he was OK.

Willis has pitched 11 2-3 innings this spring, allowing 13 runs and 19 hits.

“I felt good out there, much better than I have,” Willis said. “I was around the zone all night. They just hit them where we weren’t.”

Braves starter Javier Vazquez, who just returned from playing for Puerto Rico at the World Baseball Classic, worked 4 2-3 innings and allowed one run while striking out six.

Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge led off the game with a homer off Vazquez.

Vazquez pitched in place of Kenshin Kawakami, scratched from his scheduled start because of arm fatigue. Neither he nor manager Bobby Cox expressed any serious concern.

Cox said Kawakami likely would make his next regular start on Tuesday.

“He could have pitched today,” Cox said. “So I’m not concerned at all.”

In other news:

_Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria replaced injured Chipper Jones on the United States roster for the semifinal round of the World Baseball Classic.

_Cubs manager Lou Piniella announced that lefty Sean Marshall will begin the season as the team’s No. 5 starter.

_Toronto center fielder Vernon Wells is expected to return from a strained left hamstring and make his first spring training appearance of the year Friday as a designated hitter.

_Mets catcher Brian Schneider is out until at least Sunday with a strained right calf.

_All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez hasn’t played for Florida since Saturday because of mild tendinitis in his right shoulder. Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said he hoped Ramirez could play Saturday against Boston.

_Free-agent catcher Ivan Rodriguez is set to join the Houston Astros as soon as his physical is complete. The 13-time Gold Glove winner said he plans to join the team Sunday and hopes to play that day.

_Andruw Jones’ time with the Texas Rangers could end Friday. Jones is in camp on a minor league contract that includes a provision stating if he is not on the major league roster by March 20, he would be released if requested or added to the roster within 24 hours.

Yankees 7, Blue Jays 4

At Tampa, Fla., A.J. Burnett was hit on the upper part of his left arm by John McDonald’s second-inning line drive, but remained in the game and wound up allowing one run and three hits over 3 1-3 innings.

Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, coming back from right shoulder surgery last October, needed just five pitches to work a perfect sixth.

Cubs 9, Mariners (ss) 2

At Peoria, Ariz., Aaron Miles went 3-for-4 with two doubles and two runs scored in his second game since missing six days with a shoulder injury.

Giants 6, White Sox 4

At Scottsdale, Ariz., John Danks pitched five shutout innings and Carlos Quentin hit his first homer of spring training for Chicago. Paul Konerko doubled in a run in a two-run first inning off Giants starter Matt Cain and hit a solo homer in the sixth.

Rangers 8, Athletics 5

At Surprise, Ariz., Rangers third baseman Hank Blalock tumbled into the Oakland dugout while chasing a foul ball, causing cuts above his left eyebrow and on the bridge of his nose. Relief pitcher Dustin Nippert left in the seventh inning with tightness in his upper back.

Marlon Byrd had a two-run homer for Texas.

Dodgers 3, Rockies 2

At Phoenix, Clayton Kershaw celebrated his 21st birthday by hitting his first homer since high school and pitching five scoreless innings for Los Angeles.

Brewers 7, Indians 5

At Phoenix, J.J. Hardy was 2-for-2 with a double, triple and two RBIs, and Corey Hart homered for the Brewers. David Dellucci homered for Cleveland.

Mets 12, Astros 1

At Port St. Lucie, Fla., Mike Pelfrey, making his second start since skipping a turn with a strained muscle in his lower left leg, gave up a run and three hits in six sharp innings. Jose Reyes had four RBIs.

Houston committed four errors and dropped to 1-16-3 in Grapefruit League play.

Cardinals 9, Rays 7

At Port Charlotte, Fla., Scott Kazmir gave up a three-run homer to Ryan Ludwick and a solo shot to Rick Ankiel.

Nationals 5, Orioles 4

At Viera, Fla., Shairon Martis pitched five solid innings for Washington, allowing two runs and two hits. Josh Willingham hit a two-run homer.

Phillies 5, Marlins 1

At Jupiter, Fla., Joe Blanton had his best start of spring training for Philadelphia, allowing one hit in six scoreless innings. Marlins right-hander Chris Volstad gave up a hit in four innings and has a string of nine shutout innings over two starts.

Red Sox 9, Reds 1

At Sarasota, Fla., Jed Lowrie hit a two-run homer off Bronson Arroyo. Lowrie also doubled, giving him a team-high 17 hits this spring. Jon Lester had his longest outing of the spring for Boston, striking out six in 4 1-3 innings. He allowed one run, three hits and a walk.

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