DETROIT—In mid-May, the Tigers made their first trip to Arizona since 2005. If Eddie Bonine was to have a storybook big league debut, it would have happened right then.
Bonine attended Mountain Ridge High in Glendale, Ariz., and still lives in the area during the offseason. The righthander had pitched well enough to earn a big league summons, with a 3.09 ERA and wins in his first eight starts at Triple-A Toledo.
But there was no room in Detroit’s rotation. His moment had to wait.
If Bonine continues to pitch as well as he has, though, it will only be a matter of time before he reaches the big leagues. He is 23-5 with three complete games in his last 35 starts, and he walked only eight batters in 59 International League innings this season.
“He trusts his stuff, and he’s not afraid to throw the ball in the strike zone,” Tigers minor league pitching coordinator Jon Matlack said. “That’s different than 90 percent of pitchers in the game today.”
Bonine, 27, became a Tiger through the most unassuming of ways: the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft following the 2005 season. He pitched at three different colleges and was a 23rd-round pick of the Padres in 2003.
Bonine does not possess overwhelming stuff, but he gets the most out of it. He has good mound presence and a smooth, repeatable delivery.
He throws a four-seam fastball, sinker, slider, changeup and firm knuckleball. When he’s at his best, the separation in velocity among his pitches enables him to break bats.
“I just try to throw strikes,” Bonine said. “I’m still learning ways I can get better. It’s nice to have A.J. (Sager) as a pitching coach again this year. He knows my stuff, and he knows how I work.”
• Righthander Luis Marte, who has been one of the Tigers’ most impressive pitching prospects so far this season, will not throw for four to six weeks because of a sprained right elbow. He was 3-2, 1.98 in 41 innings at high Class A Lakeland before earning a recent promotion to Double-A Erie.
• Lefthander Jonathan Kibler was named Midwest League pitcher of the week in early May. Kibler, a 30th-round pick last year from Michigan State, was 4-1, 2.06.