Tigers Win Again

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) -- Jeremy Bonderman has been looking for the perfect changeup since last season. Thanks to Detroit Tigers teammate Justin Verlander, he's found it.
Bonderman struck out three, but also gave up a solo homer to Morgan Ensberg in Detroit's 13-8 victory over the Houston Astros on Friday.
The 24-year-old right-hander threw 29 pitches, about 10 of them changeups that Verlander taught him how to throw as the two were playing catch before spring training. Verlander suggested that Bonderman try the circle-change grip he uses -- forming a circle on the side of the ball with his index finger and thumb.
Bonderman liked it so much, he's adding the circle change to his repertoire this season.
"It's a pitch I need to throw," Bonderman said. "I'm going to throw it as much as I can the first three or four games in the spring, then add everything together toward the end of camp."
Ivan Rodriguez homered and had an RBI single off Houston starter Roy Oswalt. Rodriguez also singled in the fifth off reliever Scott Sauerbeck and scored on Carlos Guillen's two-run double.
Bonderman went 14-8 with a 4.08 ERA last season and 202 strikeouts, second only to Minnesota's Johan Santana in the AL. Bonderman had a 3.10 ERA in three playoff starts.
He thinks the changeup will make him even better, a perfect complement to his fastball and slider.
"It's another pitch, another look," Bonderman said. "It won't be my strikeout pitch. I won't throw it all the time, but it's a good pitch to go to if I get into trouble. My biggest thing is just learning how to throw it."
Bonderman said developing a changeup is a key step toward him becoming one of the game's elite pitchers.
"I don't want to be a good pitcher," he said, "I want to be a great pitcher. It's a long process. This could be a huge turning point."
Bonderman ranks Oswalt among the game's top pitchers, but the Astros' ace struggled on Friday.
Rodriguez hit Oswalt's second pitch over the left-field wall, his first homer of the spring. In the second inning, Rodriguez and Placido Polanco lined RBI singles off Oswalt to put the Tigers up 3-0.
The Astros have lost their first two spring games by a combined score of 26-10. Manager Phil Garner thinks it's much too early to panic. He said Friday wasn't a good day to judge his pitchers anyway because a blustery wind was blowing toward the outfield the entire game.
"It wouldn't be a day you could evaluate," Garner said.
Bonderman, meanwhile, struck out the first two batters he faced, Craig Biggio and Mark Loretta. Lance Berkman then grounded out on one of Bonderman's new changeups.
"It was good to see it was working," Bonderman said. "It's not a Johan (Santana) pitch, or anything like that. But I think it's really going to work for me."
In the second inning, Brandon Inge made a leaping catch on Chris Burke's liner before Ensberg homered to left on Bonderman's fastball. Bonderman got Jason Lane to fly out, then finished his outing by fanning Humberto Quintero.
Oswalt also pitched only two innings, giving up five hits with three strikeouts. He threw 45 pitches, 32 for strikes.
Brent Clevlen, Omar Infante and Cameron Maybin also homered for the Tigers. Hunter Pence homered for the Astros.


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