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Published: Thursday, 1/22/2009

Trio who split time with Hens, Tigers look healthy

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Manager Jim Leyland is flanked by Tigers Marcus Thames, left, and Michael Hollimon at the Mud Hens Fandemonium. Manager Jim Leyland is flanked by Tigers Marcus Thames, left, and Michael Hollimon at the Mud Hens Fandemonium.
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Eddie Bonine wore a dark tan and a bright smile to the Mud Hens Fandemonium at The Pinnacle in Maumee last night.

Michael Hollimon laughed and moved with ease.

Clete Thomas gave a handshake that was as assuring as it was firm.

They all looked the same - healthy.

Bonine, Hollimon and Thomas, who were among the many Detroit Tigers players and coaches in town last night, each saw their first major league action last season. And all three entered the offseason nursing injuries that either hampered or ended their 2008 campaigns.

Bonine suffered a torn lat muscle Aug. 10 and didn't pitch again. Thomas needed Tommy John surgery to repair an elbow injury he played with since June. Hollimon underwent shoulder surgery after it was discovered a torn labrum was playing a major role in his prolonged, late-season slump.

Clete Thomas, center, says he played injured the last three months. Behind him are Brent Clevlen, left, and Jeff Larish. Clete Thomas, center, says he played injured the last three months. Behind him are Brent Clevlen, left, and Jeff Larish.
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Each was eager to leave those injuries in the past with eyes focused on the upcoming season.

"I feel really good," Bonine said. "I just needed a solid eight weeks of rest and now it feels great. I guess time healed me."

Bonine, the Hens' No. 5 starter when the season began, ascended to the top spot in the rotation and made his major league debut June 14 against the Dodgers, earning the victory. He went 2-1 with a 5.40 ERA in Detroit before he was sent down and finished the year 12-4 with a 4.15 ERA with the Hens.

Thomas opened the year with the Tigers and doubled in his first big-league at-bat on opening day. He batted .284 in 40 games with Detroit and was sent back to the Hens for the final time after playing July 13.

Thomas, who batted .247 with nine homers in Toledo, said he played the last three months of the season with elbow pain but didn't say anything because of the chance of being recalled to Detroit. When his hand went numb in late August he finally confessed to the Hens' training staff and had surgery Sept. 11.

"The surgery went great, and I start throwing next week," said Thomas, who didn't know when he will be able to take part in all baseball activities.

Hollimon, like Bonine, said he shouldn't have any restrictions when spring training begins next month.

Hollimon batted .261 in 11 games with the Tigers but was not the same when he returned to Toledo in July. He finished the year batting .211 and mired in a slump. Tests revealed a tear in his left shoulder, and he underwent surgery Sept. 18.

Hollimon's recovery is ahead of schedule, and he said his shoulder has already returned to about 90 percent strength.

Other players at last night's event were Jeff Larish, Mike Hessman, Marcus Thames, Ryan Raburn, Brent Clevlen and Chris Lambert. About $50,000 was expected to be raised with proceeds going to benefit the Monsignor Jerome E. Schmidt Youth Foundation.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland was also among those present and said the group of Toledo position players who made an impact with Detroit last year - Larish, Thomas, Clevlen, and Hollimon - could help the

Tigers again in 2009.

"I like all those kids who came up from Toledo," Leyland said.

Contact Joe Vardon at:

jvardon@theblade.com

or 419-410-5055.



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