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Pasco's Bonderman starts today for Tigers

DETROIT -- For Pasco's Jeremy Bonderman, every start to the season is appreciated.

He came to Detroit eight years ago, young and raw, with a powerful right arm.

Now, after arm surgeries and more time spent away from the game recently than in it, Bonderman is hoping to make the final year of his Tigers contract memorable.

That begins with his evolution on the mound, throwing 89-92 mph after various injuries.

"I'm not throwing 97, 96, like when I was younger, but I actually know how to pitch a little bit better," said Bonderman, who will make his first start of the season today against Cleveland and just his second anywhere since mid-2008.

"I understand how to pitch. I don't just reach back and let it fly. Now I can have an idea, in and out, when to move the ball around and having that third pitch (a split-finger) allows you to keep guys off-balance."

Just being with the team during a game was Friday's progress. Bonderman was suspended at the start of this season for the first three games in Kansas City for an incident in a game late last fall that was appealed into the off-season. (He got the suspension for hitting Minnesota's Delmon Young with a ninth-inning pitch Oct. 1, prompting words to be exchanged.)

So Friday was his Opening Day, and today will be his first start after ending last year as a reliever.

"It's definitely a place I like to play," Bonderman said of Comerica Park. "I feel comfortable."

He showed Tigers manager Jim Leyland enough in spring training to put him in the rotation.

Leyland plans to keep Bonderman, who pitched an exhibition game in Lakeland, Fla., on Sunday to stay on a rotation, on the early season pitch limit as the other starters, between 90 and 100.

"Bondo is a project because he hasn't been out there in a while," Leyland said. "He's working his way back. His health is certainly not an issue right now, and that's certainly a good thing."

Leyland also will be watching how Bonderman uses his split-finger to see "how much confidence he has in it."