Team medical officials didn't tell the Tigers that he can't pitch again this season, but he'll have to feel pain-free before he makes another start. As it turns out, he hasn't felt pain-free in a while.
The elbow has been a recurring issue with Bonderman the last few years, but he has been able to pitch through it many times. He couldn't put a date on when it started bothering him this year, and he wouldn't pin his second-half struggles on it. He admitted, however, that it progressively worsened this summer until it began affecting his pitches.
He told manager Jim Leyland and team officials he was fine, but it was more like he was hoping to be fine. He didn't believe it was serious because the pain was in the back of his elbow, not around the ligament area, but he couldn't be sure.
"People can criticize if they want," he said. "I understand where they're coming from, but my belief is if you don't go out and try, you never know. I wanted to find out how bad it was. I thought if I could go out and help my team win, that I could keep going.
"I didn't tell anybody how bad I was. Maybe I didn't do the smartest thing in the world, but they gave me a [long-term] contract [last offseason] and they believed in me to go out and pitch."
The effect, he said, wasn't in the velocity of his pitches, but the finish. He wasn't following through on his pitches the same as he would if he was feeling healthy.
It wasn't enough to make him think it was serious, but he wasn't exactly relaxed when he was waiting for the results.
"I'm happy with what the results say, and that I won't have to have surgery," Bonderman said.
That doesn't mean the Tigers are happy about the way things unfolded. Leyland said the organization will review the process by which players report health issues and how the team documents them. He has no problem with the way the medical staff handled it, he said, but he wants his players to be up-front and honest when they're not feeling right.
"If there's a sign," Leyland said, "we want to know about the first minor sign of anything."
It's a catch-22, Leyland said, because a sign of an injury could turn out to be a meaningless injury. But they want to get players to at least trust that the club won't overreact. As Leyland put it, he's not a mind-reader.
"That's honorable," he said of Bonderman's decision, "but it's not very smart."
By contrast, the Tigers are going to play it smart on whether Bonderman returns this season. He'll be rested until the inflammation goes down, at which point he'll begin playing catch. He'll be cleared to pitch again when he's throwing pain-free, not when the pain is manageable.
Thus, a return is still possible, but Leyland still has to plan as if Bonderman wouldn't pitch again this year.
"There were no orders that he not pitch, and I'm not saying that he won't pitch," Leyland said. "If I were a guessing man, I'd say no, just because I wouldn't take any chances. But if Bonderman comes in here eight days from now and says, 'I don't feel anything and I feel 100 percent,' and according to the doctors' reports he'd be OK, then I'd pitch him."
As for who will pitch in Bonderman's place, that's just about as uncertain at the moment. With an off-day coming up on Thursday, the Tigers could skip his spot and not need a fifth starter until next Tuesday at Cleveland. Part of it could depend on how Jair Jurrjens performs in his return start this Tuesday against Texas.
Record-setting fan: Monday's surprisingly large attendance of 35,689 for a makeup game pushed the Tigers past their single-season attendance record of 2,704,794 from 1984. They needed just 13,862 to push past it.
The Tigers officially celebrated by selecting a fan at random as the record-breaker. Terry Shields of Windsor, Ontario won, the honor, which included a ceremonial first pitch Monday and a 27-game ticket package for next season.
Coming up: The Tigers have one more rainout to make up, this one part of a day-night doubleheader against the Rangers Tuesday. Chad Durbin (8-6, 4.57) will start opposite Vicente Padilla (5-9, 6.01) in the afternoon half at 1:05 p.m. ET. Jurrjens (1-1, 3.60) and Brandon McCarthy (5-8, 4.79) will meet in the nightcap starting at 7:05 p.m.