Bonderman's balky shoulder opened the door for prospect Jon Kibler, who allowed one run and two hits over two innings in Detroit's 7-2 victory over the New York Mets.
Kibler admitted struggling with his nerves and mechanics in his first appearance in a big league uniform, walking two batters in each inning. But the left-hander also limited the damage, escaping from a couple of difficult spots.
"I didn't have very good command of anything really. I was able to get out of some jams throwing changeups, some sliders, just mixing it up a little bit," said Kibler, who went 14-5 with a 1.75 ERA with Class A West Michigan last year and was tabbed Detroit's top minor league pitcher.
Last year was a nightmare for Bonderman. He made a dozen starts before he was shut down for the season in June, when he underwent surgery to relieve a condition that caused a blood clot in his pitching arm.
The Tigers plan to be cautious during a spring training extended by the World Baseball Classic, ordering rest and medication for the next few days.
"I'm not sure what to believe right now," Leyland said. "I'm not going to get excited about it. I'm going to let the (medical experts) take care of it and move forward."
Bonderman couldn't help but dwell on the past.
"I feel like I've already missed, basically, one full year," he said. "I don't want to be stupid and try to throw through it.
... I hope it's kind of a little bump in the road. Slow it down, take a step back, and then take a couple of steps forward."
Meanwhile, New York starter Jonathon Niese struggled in his bid to impress manager Jerry Manuel. The left-hander, who made his major league debut in September, allowed two runs and two hits with two walks in two innings. He surrendered a solo home run to Brandon Inge that put the Tigers ahead 2-1 in the second.
"I made a mistake to Inge. I sped his bat up," Niese said. "I should have went fastball there, but hindsight is 20-20."
Miguel Cabrera and Mike Hessman also homered for Detroit.
Notes: Five Tigers are set to depart for the World Baseball Classic after Sunday's road game against the Pirates. OF Curtis Granderson will play for the United States; Cabrera, RHP Armando Galarraga, OF Carlos Guillen and OF Magglio Ordonez are on Venezuela's team. Fifteen Mets players, including four minor leaguers, will participate in the event. ... LHP Ron Villone, who agreed to a minor league contract with the Mets on Friday, reported to camp but did not make the trip. ... Tigers C Matt Treanor cut down Bobby Kielty and Nick Evans on back-to-back steal attempts in the third. ... Granderson drew walks off three different pitchers.
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