What was this 24-year-old's secret to a quality start in front of 55,000 screaming fans? According to Bonser, nothing really -- he just approached it the same as any other start.
The ESPN commentators were stunned to see Bonser just sitting by himself in the Twins dugout before the biggest start of his life. But for the Twins' burly right-hander, that is just his routine and what makes him comfortable.
"I tried not to get caught up in the whole first playoff start thing," Bonser said. "For me, it was just going out and trying to focus on another game. I just wanted to go out there and pitch."
Bonser didn't factor into the decision, leaving with the game tied at 2, and the Twins ended up losing the game, 5-2. But Bonser still left an impression on his teammates.
"He came out and did what we thought he would do," catcher Joe Mauer said. "He took it as another game and threw the ball real well for us. It's just frustrating that we couldn't get any runs across for him. I mean, he came out and did what we needed him to do."
"I was very impressed," added Torii Hunter. "This guy went out there on the big stage and pitched his [rear end] off for six innings, and that's what we needed. He did what he was supposed to do."
Bonser didn't look like the same pitcher on June 1, when he gave up four runs on three homers over seven innings against the A's. His only noticeable mistake Wednesday was during the fifth inning, when he gave up consecutive doubles to Nick Swisher and Marco Scutaro. Jason Kendall added an RBI single with one out, but Bonser escaped by getting Mark Kotsay to ground out and retiring Milton Bradley.
"[In] the fifth inning, he gave up two runs on three hits but got a big groundout," said pitching coach Rick Anderson. "He's able to calm himself down now and execute his pitches. He could have blown up a bit there, but he stayed under control there and kept it to a minimum and gave us a good six.
"I thought he was outstanding. Having pitched just half a year in the big leagues, coming and pitching a game like this in front of all the fans, it was impressive. I thought he was outstanding."
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Bonser has been up and down between Triple-A and The Show throughout the year and has shown vast improvement since the end of August. From Aug. 12 on, he hasn't given up more than four runs in a start and had five quality starts from Aug. 24-Sept. 25.
In September, he went 4-1 with a 2.63 ERA and was named the American League Rookie of the Month. Bonser said his offspeed pitches have improved since returning from the Minor Leagues in August, but his teammates have helped his confidence, also.
"The biggest thing is that people in the clubhouse have been taking me in more," Bonser said.