DETROIT -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland has said he has two starters penciled in for his 2009 rotation, three if Jeremy Bonderman is healthy. To Bonderman, there's no "if" in his comeback.
"I'd better be [ready]," Bonderman said Friday. "If I'm not, it's going to be a miserable year for me."
He's had enough misery trying to get through this year unable to pitch and away from the ballclub.
Bonderman went 3-4 with a 4.29 ERA in 12 starts before numbness in his right arm led to surgery at the end of June to remove a rib constricting a blood vessel leading from his arm to the heart. Since then, his workouts have been restricted to three days a week with a physical therapist.
Bonderman's time around the team has been limited for much of the season's second half. He managed to time a visit with Dr. Greg Pearl, the specialist who performed the surgery, around the Tigers' August trip to Texas. His visit to Detroit this weekend came about for an end-of-season physical exam.
Aside from that, Bonderman's had to watch from afar as the Tigers have struggled down the stretch. As a result, he didn't feel right offering up advice.
"I can't help out," Bonderman said. "It's hard to pitch in and give advice when I'm not around, and I haven't been through what they're going through this year. I know I've been through worse than this, but it's definitely hard to sit here and tell them it's going to be all right when I'm not here to pitch in."
His focus, then, has been geared towards getting himself able to pitch. Bonderman hopes to start playing in the next month or two and start throwing with more authority as the range of motion in his shoulder loosens up. Bonderman feels like he's getting close to that, and he's optimistic enough that he plans on heading to the team's Spring Training complex in Lakeland, Fla., right after Christmas.
"I think I'll be all right," Bonderman said. "From the last time I was in Texas [with the Tigers in August] to now, I've improved tremendously. I'm just a little bit away."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.