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Bonderman looks good in spring debut

Ivan Rodriguez, who is representing his native Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, will report to the Astros as soon as he passes a physical.

Ivan Rodriguez, who is representing his native Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, will report to the Astros as soon as he passes a physical.

The Detroit Tigers could sure use a healthy and consistent season from Jeremy Bonderman. He got off to a good start Thursday night.

After missing most of last year following surgery to repair a circulatory condition in his shoulder, Bonderman gave up two hits in two scoreless innings during Detroit’s 5-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves in Kissimmee, Fla.

Bonderman’s return this spring was slowed by more soreness in his pitching shoulder. At one point, the right-hander returned to Detroit to be examined by team physicians.

“It’s been a long fight to get back,” he said. “It was a relief to go out there and throw again with no pain. I’m over the hump.”

Bonderman walked two and did not strike out a batter.

“My mechanics are not where I’d like them to be. There is a timing issue, but I’ll get stronger,” he said. “I’ll be sore tomorrow, but normal sore. I’ll be fine to throw again in five days. And the more I pitch, the stronger the arm will get.”

One of baseball’s biggest disappointments last season, the Tigers hope Bonderman can join a 2009 rotation that includes Justin Verlander, Armando Galarraga and Edwin Jackson.

Bonderman won 50 games from 2004-07, surpassing 174 innings in each of those seasons, before going 3-4 with a 4.29 ERA last year, when he was shut down in June.

Veteran lefty Dontrelle Willis, trying to land the fifth spot in Detroit’s rotation, allowed seven hits and five runs – four earned – in 2 1/2 innings.

Willis had his sore left hand wrapped in ice after the game. He hurt himself trying to catch a ball hit by Kelly Johnson but said he was OK.

Willis has pitched 11 1/2 innings this spring, allowing 13 runs and 19 hits.

“I felt good out there, much better than I have,” Willis said. “I was around the zone all night. They just hit them where we weren’t.”

Braves starter Javier Vazquez, who just returned from playing for Puerto Rico at the World Baseball Classic, worked 4 1/2 innings and allowed one run while striking out six.

Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge led off the game with a homer off Vazquez.

Vazquez pitched in place of Kenshin Kawakami, scratched from his scheduled start because of arm fatigue. Neither he nor manager Bobby Cox expressed any serious concern.

Cox said Kawakami likely would make his next regular start on Tuesday.

“He could have pitched today,” Cox said. “So I’m not concerned at all.”

In other news:

• Cubs manager Lou Piniella announced that lefty Sean Marshall will begin the season as the team’s No. 5 starter.

• Toronto center fielder Vernon Wells is expected to return from a strained left hamstring and make his first spring training appearance of the year Friday as a designated hitter.

• Mets catcher Brian Schneider is out until at least Sunday with a strained right calf.

• All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez hasn’t played for Florida since Saturday because of mild tendinitis in his right shoulder. Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said he hoped Ramirez could play Saturday against Boston.

• Free-agent catcher Ivan Rodriguez is set to join the Houston Astros as soon as his physical is complete. The 13-time Gold Glove winner said he plans to join the team Sunday and hopes to play that day.

• Andruw Jones’ time with the Texas Rangers could end Friday. Jones is in camp on a minor league contract that includes a provision stating if he is not on the major league roster by March 20, he would be released if requested or added to the roster within 24 hours.

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