SEATTLE -- The Tigers' pitching staff has been spotty at times this season, but overall the pitchers have been solid. They have the sixth best ERA in the league at 4.05. They've issued the second-fewest walks in the league (33) and the fewest hits (85), and opponents are hitting just .235 against them. Closer Fernando Rodney has three saves and has yet to allow a hit or run in five appearances. Starter Armando Galarraga is 2-0 with a 0.68 ERA.
That's good, but they can get better, as three veteran pitchers are working their way back to the big league roster through rehab. Right-handed starter Jeremy Bonderman had offseason right shoulder surgery to improve circulation, and he's back throwing again. He threw 40 pitches off the mound this week at the team's Minor League facility in Lakeland, Fla. Bonderman has reached 90 mph. "He's doing good. He loosened up good," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "He threw 89 to 90. He felt real good. I think he's in good spirits. He's come to grips that he's going to make sure he's right.'' Righty reliever Joel Zumaya, who dealt with a sore right shoulder during Spring Training, is on an injury rehab assignment with Triple-A Toledo. He threw two innings on Saturday, allowing two hits. He hit 101 mph on the speed gun twice. Leyland, who doesn't put much credibility in speed guns, said he'll reserve judgment until he sees Zumaya, which could be quite soon. Zumaya will be used in back-to-back outings Tuesday and Wednesday. If he reports no health issues, he should be ready to be activated. "We'll see how that works out," Leyland said. The third pitcher the club hopes is on the rebound back to the bigs is lefty starter Dontrelle Willis. He had trouble throwing strikes last season, and he currently is on the disabled list with an anxiety disorder. Willis, working in a training camp game on Saturday, threw 62 pitches, including 48 strikes. "It's good news -- and they were legitimate strikes. That's the first thing we checked,'' Leyland said. "He averaged 90-92. That's pretty good velocity for a left-hander. I'm not going to get carried away, but I'm excited. I can't wait for Tuesday to see how he does. "I felt bad for the kid. He comes over here [from the Marlins, and] things haven't been really good for him. He struggled a little bit at the end with the Marlins. I hope he gets things straightened out. We need him. We could use him.
"It looks like more positive steps."
Bob Sherwin is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.