Mariners nonroster candidate Jeremy Bonderman had little idea what to expect two months ago when he arrived here to resume a pitching career abandoned after the 2010 season.

And having lasted this long in the team's rotation battle, Bonderman, 30, still has no idea where he'll make his next start. The only thing the Pasco resident is certain about following his final Cactus League outing Tuesday is that he still has what it takes to compete.

But if his comeback is to continue beyond Tuesday's 11-6 loss to the Kansas City Royals, Bonderman will have to show he can compete a little bit longer in games. Bonderman hit the proverbial wall in the fifth and sixth innings and likely settled any question of whether he needs more seasoning in Class AAA.

"I was definitely tired," Bonderman said. "I definitely had some fatigue. It wasn't the best stuff I've had. It definitely wasn't what I was hoping for.

"I was rolling along pretty good, and then I got smacked in the mouth."

By the time he was done, he'd given up seven runs on 11 hits in 5-1/3 innings. And while Mariners manager Eric Wedge wasn't prepared to say it out loud, he gave every indication postgame that he'd like Bonderman to continue to work in AAA to get his arm strength where it needs to be.

"We'll see how he feels tomorrow and go from there," Wedge said. "But ultimately, it's a unique situation. What we're trying to do is put everybody in the best position to succeed and the best position this year — whether it be right away or at some point in time later."

Wedge said he is "real close" to naming his starting rotation, but wants to talk it over with pitchers and coaches first. Barring a trade, the team will almost certainly go with Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Joe Saunders, Blake Beavan and Class AA prospect Brandon Maurer as their starting five.

After using just 47 pitches the first four innings on Tuesday, Bonderman had to throw 30 more just to make it out of a six-run fifth inning. He gave up seven hits, three of them doubles and one a triple.

Just as telling, the two-seam fastball he'd been throwing at 90-93 mph the first few innings had dipped to about 87-88 mph by the fifth. The Mariners still sent Bonderman out for the sixth to see what he had left before reaching his allotment of 90 pitches.