DETROIT -- Two months after Jeremy Bonderman made it back to the big leagues, he has made it back with the Tigers. It won't be in his old role, but with a chance to get back to the postseason with his old club, he'll take it.
The Tigers announced after Sunday's win that they're purchasing Bonderman's contract from Triple-A Toledo. He'll join the team in Cleveland on Monday to fill the long relief spot in the bullpen held by Evan Reed, who was optioned to Toledo.
Whenever he gets into a game -- the way Detroit's starters are pitching lately, innings have been tough to find for most of Detroit's supporting relievers -- it'll be Bonderman's first appearance in a Tigers uniform since Oct. 1, 2010. He has had Tommy John surgery, a year of retirement, a year of injury rehab and a comeback with the Seattle Mariners since then.
This makes it a homecoming.
"We were trying to get another veteran arm with our big league club," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said.
This one comes with a history. Ten years after Bonderman broke into the big leagues with Detroit as a 20-year-old rookie starter, beginning an eight-year stint in the organization, he's back as a veteran reliever.
Bonderman signed a Minor League deal with the Tigers last month after he was designated for assignment in Seattle, where he went 1-3 with a 4.93 ERA in seven starts. He had some strong starts in June before struggling his last couple outings.
The Tigers planned on using him as a starter in Toledo, but he asked to pitch in relief, knowing it was the one way he could get back to Detroit barring an injury in the rotation. He thrived in a middle relief role from the first moment, delivering 9 2/3 scoreless innings on three hits over seven appearances with no walks and five strikeouts.
The Mud Hens stretched him out as a test on Monday and Thursday, and he responded with 4 2/3 scoreless innings combined on two hits.
"He's pitched very well," Dombrowski said. "He has consistently thrown strikes. His velocity has been solid. He's had good movement. His slider has been good. He's actually thrown some changeups. He's quicker to the plate than he used to be. He's done a lot of good things for us."
Reed, a 27-year-old rookie, had delivered 5 2/3 scoreless innings over his last four outings, but team officials opted for experience in the role.
"Reed did nothing wrong. He pitched very, very well for us," Dombrowski said. "But really, it's more a matter to trying to get a veteran arm to pitch a few innings for us."
It wasn't an easy call for Reed, who was clearly surprised by the decision.
"It's tough," said Reed, who replaced injured Darin Downs as Detroit's long reliever July 7. "You just pitch as good as you can every chance you get."
Peralta's focus remains on field with Cleveland on deck
DETROIT -- Jhonny Peralta kept his focus on the field Sunday afternoon, then kept his answers to baseball questions only after the Tigers finished off his sweep of the White Sox. He was not addressing the looming question of what awaits him off the field, or when he might take the field again.
While multiple reports say Major League Baseball will announce suspensions Monday coming out of its months-long Biogenesis investigation, to which Peralta has been linked, Peralta went about Sunday like he was preparing to hit the road with the team on its upcoming road trip.
He was driving rather than catching the team flight to Cleveland, he said, but that's not a sign in itself. His wife is from Cleveland, and they still own a home there from his years with the Indians.
Where he goes from there is anyone's guess. That includes his teammates, who have been reading and seeing reports.
"I think we're all a little worried," Tigers catcher Alex Avila said. "I think everybody's a little curious, that's for sure. We'll just kind of take it in stride, whatever happens."
As far as the roster goes, the Tigers are prepared. They acquired Jose Iglesias from Boston Tuesday night touting him as the shortstop of the future, but also admitted that the uncertainty surrounding Peralta played a role. Depending on what Major League Baseball decides, and what Peralta decides in turn, Iglesias could be their shortstop of the present. For the weekend, he was their third baseman in a pinch, filling in for the injured Miguel Cabrera.
Peralta could appeal any possible suspension and continue playing while awaiting a hearing with an arbitrator, a process that could linger through the season. A 50-game suspension served immediately, on the other hand, could bring him back with three games to go in the regular season and leave him eligible for the postseason.
Whatever Peralta was weighing off the field, his performance on the field didn't show it. He had a single, a walk and a run scored Sunday to go with an over-the-shoulder catch on an Alexei Ramirez liner to start an inning-ending double play in the 10th to keep the game tied. He went 9-for-25 for the homestand.
"He's definitely been able to block it out and not let it affect him," Avila said. "That's not easy to do. I mean, there's very few players that can do that. I think he's always been that way, at least since he's been with this team."
Cabrera sits until key pinch-hit single in 12th
DETROIT -- Miguel Cabrera doesn't get the chance to step off the bench and play the hero very often. On Sunday, he stepped very carefully and delivered the leadoff single that sparked the game-winning rally in the 12th inning off Dylan Axelrod.
"It's unbelievable. He hasn't seen a live pitch in I don't know how many days, and gets a base hit up the middle," Rick Porcello said.
After a slow jog to first base, Cabrera was gone, lifted for pinch-runner Matt Tuiasosopo. When Cabrera's next at-bat will be is anyone's guess.
Asked about his health, Cabrera changed the topic.
"It was a good win," Cabrera said.
Cabrera was out of the lineup for the fourth consecutive game as manager Jim Leyland gave his abdominal strain one more day to recover before the Tigers begin a four-game divisional clash in Cleveland. Cabrera looked fine in his pregame workout, taking ground balls and batting practice, but hitting and lateral movement have never been the problem for him. It's running, Cabrera said, that tests his injury.
"He felt a lot better [Saturday]," Leyland said, "but that was my decision not to play him."
Jose Iglesias started at third base for the third straight game and made several slick plays. Don Kelly, who started in right field as Leyland gave Torii Hunter and his Achilles a day off, batted third in Cabrera's spot.
Downs stays at Triple-A after ending rehab assignment
DETROIT -- Darin Downs completed his rehab assignment for Triple-A Toledo Saturday night, only to be optioned there to pitch full time. The Tigers activated the lefty reliever from the 15-day disabled list Sunday morning and optioned him to the Mud Hens.
Downs was scheduled to pitch an inning in his final rehab appearance for the Hens on Saturday. Downs allowed four runs, three earned, on three hits over three innings with two walks and five strikeouts for his rehab assignment. He went 0-2 with a 5.18 ERA in 26 appearances for the Tigers before going on the DL, allowing 36 hits over 33 innings with 10 walks and 37 strikeouts.
Benoit's adjustment to closing leads to fewer homers
DETROIT -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland explained Joaquin Benoit's intelligence and his use of it in the closer's role before Sunday's finale against the White Sox.
"There's the pure-stuff-type closer, and then there's the figure-it-out closer," Leyland said.
Benoit, he said, is a little bit of both. That looks evident in the stats.
A year ago, Benoit led Major League relievers with 14 home runs allowed, more than double his total in any other season in which he has been a full-time reliever. With just under two months to go, Benoit has allowed two home runs in 45 innings.
It would be lowest home-run ratio of his career if he keeps it up. Coupled with that, his .66 ratio of ground balls to fly balls would be the highest of his career.
It wasn't any major correction in mechanics, Benoit said. His best explanation is that it's a product of a change in approach.
"In the role that I'm in right now, they're taking more pitches," Benoit said. "And I'm throwing more fastballs. I'm just trying to throw first-pitch strikes down in the zone and go from there."
That, if anything, is the one major adjustment he has made to closing. In the ninth inning, especially trailing by two or three runs, hitters are more likely to try to work a count and draw a walk than in other situations.
Leyland rested Benoit on Sunday after he pitched the ninth inning the previous couple nights. He has racked up 13 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings, allowing 10 hits while walking four and striking out 16.
Tigers hopeful as Dotel keeps throwing off mound
DETROIT -- Octavio Dotel continues to throw off a mound at the Tigers' Spring Training in Lakeland, Florida, and the Tigers continue to believe all is not lost in his chances for pitching again this season.
"I think shortly, if things continue to move forward, there will be some progress on him," manager Jim Leyland said.
Dotel hasn't pitched in a game since April, when inflammation in his right elbow led the team's medical staff to shut him down. His rehab process has essentially been a summer-long series of starts and stops, each time halted when Dotel has experienced more discomfort in his elbow.
This time, this officials said, his arm feels better than at any other point.