Jeremy Bonderman will return to a Major League mound Sunday afternoon at Target Field for the first time since 2010, back in the big leagues after shoulder and elbow surgeries. And there's only one thing Mariners manager Eric Wedge wants out of the 30-year-old right-hander.
"Give us a chance to win the ballgame," Wedge said. "He's been here and done it before. If you look at how hard he's worked to get back here, I'm sure he'll be ready to go."
Bonderman's last start came on Oct. 1, 2010, when he was with the Tigers. He went 67-77 with a 4.89 ERA in 207 games for Detroit from 2003-10. After spending two years out of baseball, he signed a Minor League deal with Seattle and pitched the first two months of the season for Triple-A Tacoma.
Given his experience in the American League Central, it's fitting that Bonderman's first start will come against the Twins. He's made 17 starts and two relief appearances against Minnesota in his career, posting a 5.75 ERA in 103 1/3 innings. But, as Twins manager Ron Gardenhire noted, it's been so long since they last saw him, it's hard to know what to expect. In fact, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are the only Twins position players still around from Minnesota's 2010 team that last faced Bonderman.
"You have to watch videos and get reports. That's all you got. Old video won't help us here," Gardenhire said. "I haven't seen him in three years. All we can hope for is that we have some video and have something to go by. If not, we'll just watch him pitch -- just like the old days before we had all this technology. You go out and face him the first time and make adjustments from there."
Bonderman, who went 2-4 with a 4.52 ERA in 11 starts for Tacoma, is taking the spot left open when rookie Brandon Maurer was sent down to the Minors earlier this week. Seattle would like to see more production from the back of its rotation and, keeping in mind that Bonderman had a June 1 opt-out in his contract, decided this was the time to put him back on a Major League mound.
"He's a competitor out there," said Wedge, who faced Bonderman often while managing the Indians. "Tough, hard-nosed. He competes."
Lining up opposite Bonderman will be Twins lefty Scott Diamond, who hasn't won a game since May 7.
Diamond started off strong in May, going 2-0 with only two runs, seven hits and a walk allowed over 13 innings against two of the Majors' toughest lineups in Detroit and Boston. Since then, he's gone 0-2 with an 8.41 ERA over four starts, none of which has lasted longer than 5 2/3 innings.
Mariners: Franklin impressing early on
Rookie second baseman Nick Franklin has hit well in his first week in the Majors, enough to get bumped up to the sixth spot in the lineup on Saturday, ahead of the struggling Michael Saunders.
"I wanted to break up the lefties with the switch-hitter [Franklin] there. Although it's only been a few games, Nick's been up there aggressive, swinging the bat well," Wedge said. "It gives Saunders another hitter to watch, because he's still trying to find it and figure it out himself."
Franklin's defense, meanwhile, has been as advertised, if not better.
"It's not a surprise. He's worked hard at it," Wedge said. "But a couple of these double plays that have been tough are probably not what you'd expect this early. He's had some tough turns where he's had to hang in there and get rid of it quick with something on it. He's really worked hard over there, and he's looked good."
• Wedge expects Justin Smoak to return to the lineup on Sunday after missing seven starts due to a tight right oblique muscle.
Twins: Morneau out sick
Morneau was held out of the lineup on Saturday after arriving at Target Field with flu-like symptoms. Gardenhire wasn't sure how long Morneau would miss, as he didn't feel sick until Saturday morning, and was resting in the training room before the game.
In his spot, Chris Colabello made his first career start at first base and just his third start overall.
• Mauer moved back to the second spot in the lineup on Saturday. He's spent most of the season there, but moved to the No. 3 spot for five days.
"I kind of like Mauer in that two hole," Gardenhire said. "I've enjoyed that part of it. I think he comes up with some chances, with RBIs and stuff, and that's kind of what I'm looking for."
• Shortstop Brendan Ryan has hit safely in 12 of 14 starts against the Twins.
• The Twins won their first game in June with Saturday's walk-off win. They went 14-13 last June and 17-9 in June 2011, a combined record of 31-22 that ranks tied for sixth in baseball over the past two seasons.