Tigers place Bonderman right back on DL

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Jeremy Bonderman struggled Monday in his return from the disabled list,
allowing six runs over four innings in his first start in more than a
year, and the Tigers sent him right back to the DL this afternoon.

Bonderman’s stuff was noticeably lacking following shoulder surgery,
as he averaged just 89.6 miles per hour with his fastball Monday after
clocking in at 92-94 mph prior to going under the knife.

As skipper Jim Leyland put it: “If you were a scout and not the manager, I would have said he just didn’t look like he was quite ready.”

And even with a plus fastball Bonderman was never all that
effective, posting a 4.74 ERA in nearly 1,000 innings with a
career-best mark of 4.08 in 2006. Much of his mediocrity stemmed from
sub par off-speed pitches and that hasn’t changed, so if Bonderman
can’t rediscover the missing 3-4 mph on his fastball it’s going to be
extremely tough for him to reemerge as more than a back-of-the-rotation
starter.

Unfortunately for the Tigers he’s owed $12.5 million this season and
another $12.5 million in 2010, so much like with Dontrelle Willis they
have no choice but to be patient. For now at least Willis remains in
Detroit’s rotation despite showing similarly diminished stuff while
going 1-3 with a 6.60 ERA and 16/20 K/BB ratio in six starts.

Tommy La Stella talks about his refusal to report to the minors in 2016

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In late July of 2016, Cubs infielder Tommy La Stella was demoted to Triple-A. It wasn’t personal. It was a roster crunch situation and La Stella had options left so, despite the fact that he had been an effective player to that point of the season, it made sense to send him down.

La Stella didn’t take the demotion well. In fact he refused to report to Iowa and went home to New Jersey instead. It was not until August 17 that he finally reported and then only after prolonged discussions with the Cubs and the assurance that he’d be back in the majors once rosters opened up. Which he was, after spending just over a week down on the farm.

Such a move by a player would, normally speaking, make him persona non-grata. His teammates would shun him and the organization would, eventually, cut bait, with the press characterizing him as a me-first player as he walked out the door. That did not happen with La Stella, however, who remains with the Cubs two years later and, by all accounts, is a popular and important guy in the Cubs’ clubhouse, even if he’s not one of the team’s big stars.

Today Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic has an in-depth story about La Stella, what went down in 2016 and how he and the Cubs have proceeded since then. The story is subscription only, but the short version is that there was a lot of understanding and empathy on the part of the Cubs organization and their players about what was going on in La Stella’s head at the time and how everyone allowed everyone else the space to work through it.

I’m happy to read this story, because all too often we only hear about such incidents as they occur, with little followup. To the extent the story is told, most of the time its completely one-sided, with the player who acts out being treated like a bad seed with little if any explanation of his side of things. And, yes, there are always two sides to the story. Sometimes even more.

Kudos to Rosenthal for telling this story. Here’s hoping the next time a player is involved in a controversy that, in the moment, makes him appear to be a bad seed or have a bad attitude, we hear more about it then too.