There has been one question burning inside of Tigers fans all year. “Where in the world is our bullpen?”
Well, amidst the Tigers’ recent 12-game winning streak, that bullpen is starting to emerge. With an old gem at the forefront. Jeremy Bonderman.
How long has it been since you heard that name with any sort of a good connotation around it? (Sept. 2010, to be exact).
Bonderman signed a minor league deal with the Tigers on July 14 and was called up on Aug. 5.
In his first appearance he retired nine of 10 batters in the 11-13th innings of Wednesday’s 6-5 14-inning win over rival Cleveland. Allowing just one hit in his return, he assured Tigers fans that this team is for real, and they’re about to show it.
In fact, they’ve already begun to show it on their streak – not to mention they’ve won 17 of 19. A big part of that streak has been the bullpen.
As a whole, the pen had a sub-3.00 ERA and a 3-0 record over the 12-game streak.
Closer Joaquin Benoit has kept his save record clean at a perfect 14-for-14 with five on the streak. Another big step for the Tigers came Wednesday when they officially released Jose Valverde. Benoit has been the perfect, literally perfect, guy to fill his void.
The setup men haven’t been too shabby either. The newly acquired Jose Veras has been stellar for Detroit. He has a pristine 0.00 ERA over five games Dombrowski sure got that one right.
Drew Smyly has been consistent all year, with an ERA of 2.03 and 4-0 record. He’s a young, emerging reliever with a bright future. But right now, he’s not just the future. He’s the “right here, right now.” He’s right in the middle of what could finally be “the year” for the Tigers.
Al Alburquerque is finally starting to somewhat get back to the pitcher he was last season, which could be the final notch in the bullpen belt for the Tigers (minus taking the loss in Friday’s 4-3, 10-inning loss in New York).
While they are starting to improve, there are still a few hiccups, as there will be with any bullpen on any team. One hiccup includes Phil Coke. The once reliable standout has been anything but that this season. His 0-5 record and 5.40 ERA makes him the one guy that Tigers fans begin to stir over every time he enters the game.
That’s not to say that he hasn’t been decent this season. He’s had a few good games, but he’s certainly not the same “Coke Zero” that Tigers fans saw last October.
But when it all boils down, it looks as if an old familiar face might be the fresh face that needed to come to Detroit. Who would’ve thought that Jeremy Bonderman would be the beginning of a revival for a team in a city in need of a revival?
While Cleveland fans chanted “Detroit’s bankrupt,” these boys of summer tuned that out, and made Cleveland bankrupt in the win column over the last four games. And they did it in the same 2006-dramatic-fashion – late inning heroics. From Cabrera’s eighth inning blast and Fielder’s double, to absolute dominance (minus Ryan Raburn’s 1-2-3 ninth inning on the mound Thursday night), Detroit asserted its dominance in the American League Central.
The 12-game high came to an end Friday, but this new wind coming out of the Tigers’ bullpen will certainly help the Tigers reach towards the next step in a slow progression (ALCS in 2011, World Series in 2012 – what’s the next logical step?)