Now iffy has become "highly unlikely."
Manager Jim Leyland said today that he doesn't expect Bonderman in his rotation when the season begins April 6 in Toronto. Bonderman had surgery last June to remove a blood clot from his right shoulder, and while he has been able to pitch this spring, he still has a way to go to be ready for a regular-season game.
"I could put Bonderman out there right now, if I'm willing to have him throw 88 mph," Leyland said.
While Leyland can't be sure when Bonderman's first start will be, he said he does believe Bonderman will start 20-plus games for the Tigers this season.
"I feel confident in that," Leyland said. "It's not a slam dunk, but I feel confident."
Bonderman is scheduled to start for the Tigers on Sunday.
Bonderman's absence at the start of the season would leave the Tigers with two spots to fill in their rotation, behind Justin Verlander, Edwin Jackson and Armando Galarraga. Rookie Rick Porcello will likely get one of those two spots. Nate Robertson and Zach Miner are the top candidates for the other spot.
Earlier this spring, Leyland said it was "99.9 percent" that Miner would pitch out of the bullpen this season. Now, he said, Miner is back in the picture.
Leyland also expressed hope that Joel Zumaya will help the Tigers this year, even though Zumaya is also expected to begin the season on the DL. Zumaya pitched in a minor-league game today in Lakeland.
It's hard for the Tigers to have much confidence about Zumaya, who has been on the disabled list three times in the last two years. Bonderman's situation is different.
"He knows it's going to come back," Leyland said. "But it's not there yet."