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 Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker

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PostSubject: Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker   Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker Icon_minitimeWed Apr 22, 2009 11:32 am

Tigers Team Report
Inside Pitch
Updated: April 22, 2009, 5:00 AM EST

It has to cheer Dontrelle Willis and the Tigers a lot to finally have some good news to rebuild his hopes on.

Willis pitched seven innings in his first rehab appearance, and while he gave up four runs Tuesday, it was the lack of walks that was most heartening in his performance for high Class A Lakeland.

He did not walk a batter in his first outing since being placed on the disabled list in late March with an anxiety disorder -- a malady about which he remains unclear.

Willis was throwing first-pitch strikes. He was throwing strikes period, 58 of 75 pitches in fact, and he retired the first nine batters he faced. And though he gave up four runs, two were unearned. The only extra-base hit was a two-run home run.

His next stop will be Class AA Erie, where Willis is scheduled to start Sunday. If he does well there, and in a presumed assignment for Class AAA Toledo, he could come up to give the Tigers a left-handed presence their rotation currently lacks.

Detroit invested a three-year contract in Willis that still has two seasons to run. It wants him to succeed, and now it appears as though he might have a chance.


Last edited by TigersForever on Sun Jul 04, 2010 6:01 pm; edited 3 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker   Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker Icon_minitimeSat Apr 25, 2009 12:27 am

Come on Willis, we are praying for ya.
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PostSubject: Re: Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker   Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker Icon_minitimeMon Apr 27, 2009 4:49 pm

Dontrelle rehab update
BECK'S BLOG

Back home for the Yankees series Monday after Robert Falkoff covered for me in KC, but I wanted to post an update on Dontrelle Willis and his rehab outing Sunday. He allowed two earned runs on three hits in six innings with three walks and six strikeouts, earning the victory in Erie's 8-4 win over Harrisburg.

Willis threw 56 of his 92 pitches for strikes, but that's actually a little deceptive, since there was a definite split in his outing. He was perfect through four innings, using just 43 pitches in the process, before a solo homer and back-to-back doubles led to a 31-pitch fifth inning (19 of those 31 pitches were balls). He reportedly threw first-pitch strikes to 13 of the 23 batters he faced.

Not sure how accurate the radar gun is at Jerry Uht Park, but Willis' fastball supposedly ranged from 86-90 mph on the stadium readings. However, his breaking ball was supposedly pretty good.

As of now, it seems likely that Willis will make another rehab start, even though he's stretched out from a pitch-count standpoint. UPDATE: Indications are that his next outing will be for Triple-A Toledo next weekend at Allentown, probably Friday.

* Posted on April 26, 2009 at 10:29 PM


"If you have to choose between power and speed and it often turns out you have to make that choice, you've got to go for speed." Source: TV Guide Interview (April 3, 1982)
-- Sparky Anderson
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PostSubject: Re: Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker   Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker Icon_minitimeFri May 08, 2009 12:04 am

Willis ready to return to Tigers
Left-hander will start on Wednesday against the Twins

By David Just / Special to MLB.com

05/07/09 8:50 PM ET

CHICAGO -- The speculation surrounding the return of Dontrelle Willis can be put to rest.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland announced Thursday that the left-hander will rejoin the team in Cleveland and make his first start of the season on Wednesday against the Twins.

Willis has been on the 15-day disabled list due to an anxiety disorder since March 29. He has made four rehab starts in the Minor Leagues, culminating with Wednesday night's two-run outing in 7 2/3 innings. The hurler has compiled a 3.85 ERA over 25 2/3 innings in rehab starts at three different levels.

"The basic report was they think it's time," Leyland said. "He's throwing pretty much around the plate all the time, 89-to-93 [mph] -- some good breaking balls, some changeups. So he's used his pitches.

"He can't really benefit anymore down there. So it's time to find out. I think that's good. I think it's time to find out, too."

Willis will not be activated in Cleveland, but he will get side work in until his scheduled Wednesday start. Zach Miner will move to the bullpen to make way for the left-hander, who hasn't started a regular-season game since Sept. 27, 2008.

At Triple-A Toledo, Willis made two starts, striking out eight while walking six. When asked what expectations Leyland had for Willis upon his return, the Tigers skipper was adamant.

"I'll make that perfectly clear," Leyland said. "My expectations are for him to win games, like it is for every other pitcher that I put out there. There's no bones about that. This is not a gimmie situation. This is the big leagues, and we're trying to win.

"My expectations are that he will do well. I think he's got a very good chance to do that. We will see. But I'm 100 percent behind the move to get him here and to find out. This is not a trial. This is not experimental. This is not developmental. This is the big leagues."

Leyland suggested that another missing piece in the Detroit rotation, right-hander Jeremy Bonderman, could make a rehab start soon. Bonderman has been on the 15-day disabled list since March 30 as he recovers from thoracic outlet compression syndrome surgery.

"It looks like we're moving toward a point where [Bonderman] will be assigned somewhere, unless there are some surprising setbacks," said Leyland, adding that Bonderman threw six painless innings in extended spring training on Wednesday.

The potential return of both Willis and Bonderman finally would give Leyland a chance to use his full arsenal of arms.

Added Leyland: "I'm looking forward to having problems putting everything together."

David Just is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


"If you have to choose between power and speed and it often turns out you have to make that choice, you've got to go for speed." Source: TV Guide Interview (April 3, 1982)
-- Sparky Anderson
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PostSubject: Re: Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker   Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker Icon_minitimeThu May 14, 2009 10:11 am

Willis takes major step in comeback
Lefty pitcher gets no-decision in game against Twins

By Jason Beck / MLB.com

05/14/09 2:34 AM ET

MINNEAPOLIS -- Well before Dontrelle Willis took the mound for his Major League return Wednesday night, Tigers manager Jim Leyland laid out a simple goal, the same he has for any pitcher: Give the team a chance to win.

As Willis left with two outs the fifth, having allowed four runs on eight hits, he had given the Tigers a shot at taking this game -- the first of many shots, it turned out. He just couldn't have imagined what kind of game it would end up being.

"I kind of feel like I pitched three days ago," Willis said after Joe Crede's 13th-inning grand slam sent the Tigers to a 14-10 loss. "That's how long the game went today."

Willis was long gone before most of this game's twists and turns, but his work kept the game close. Considering Justin Morneau's two-run homer put the Twins up in the first inning, it had the chance to become lopsided early.

Willis began the season on the disabled list with anxiety disorder, but has said his main issue was simply not pitching well -- both during his wild 2008 season and in Spring Training. When he rejoined the Tigers, he said his biggest lesson from doctors and club officials was learning to go one pitch at a time and put bad pitches behind him. His best example, he said, came after giving up a home run.

Morneau's two-out drive to center field gave him that early test.

"That's the only pitch that I really want back," Willis said of his 93-mph fastball that wandered over the plate, "and I really don't want it back."

Last year, his outing probably would've fallen apart after that in a struggle to reclaim the strike zone. On Wednesday, he went back to his mix of speeds, retiring Michael Cuddyer to end the first inning, then pitching a scoreless second.

"It happened in the first," Willis said. "I wasn't just going to throw in the towel. We still have a lot of ballgame. You still can give our team confidence that we can get back in the ballgame. As soon as the other guy got in trouble, we're still in the ballgame.

"I think it's contagious as far as continuing to battle. If the team sees you battling, then everybody goes and follows suit."

Offensively, they eventually came around. Defensively, it took a while, but the Tigers began to respond to Willis' effort.

Willis' quick reactions snared Mike Redmond's liner back up the middle with two on and nobody out in the first, starting a rally-killing double play. After three straight hits led to another run in the third on Joe Mauer's single, Willis hit one corner after another to get an inning-ending double play.

"There was a point when I looked over at [shortstop] Adam [Everett]," third baseman Brandon Inge said, "and I said, 'He's back. It looks like he's back now.' I remember catching him last year, and pitch by pitch, if you take away the location, he has the movement on it. He has the velocity, and he definitely has the ability to be a dominant pitcher. It's just he wasn't throwing strikes last year. That's the only thing."

Willis' two walks both came on close full-count pitches, and he threw 53 of his 87 pitches for strikes. He had two other three-ball counts on a night when the Twins were poised to wait him out to hit the strike zone.

"I was actually pleased," Leyland said. "I thought he kept himself together pretty good. He was around the plate pretty good. He didn't seem to get rattled at all.

"We might need to tweak a couple things, but overall, I was pleased."

Though Willis topped 100 pitches in both of his rehab outings at Triple-A Toledo, the Tigers did not want to go that deep with him on this night. Leyland pulled him for Zach Miner once Willis retired Justin Morneau for the second out of the fifth, bringing up a string of five straight right-handed hitters.

"I wish I could've went deeper," Willis said, "but the more I pitch, hopefully I'll earn the confidence of Skip to let me go out there and continue to battle, especially on a night like this that nobody could've predicted."

That said, after Miner retired Joe Crede to end the fifth-inning threat, Willis greeted Miner two steps in front of the dugout with a hug. Once Inge homered in the next inning to put Detroit in front, Willis was left with a no-decision.

He'll take that and go into his next start. His rotation spot comes up next Tuesday against Texas, and he isn't looking at this as the end of his comeback.

"It ain't a milestone," Willis said. "This is where I want to be."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


"If you have to choose between power and speed and it often turns out you have to make that choice, you've got to go for speed." Source: TV Guide Interview (April 3, 1982)
-- Sparky Anderson
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PostSubject: Re: Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker   Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker Icon_minitimeFri Jun 05, 2009 6:34 pm

Willis can't harness wildness in loss
Lefty allows five runs on no hits, five walks in 2 1/3 innings

By Kyle Austin / MLB.com

06/04/09 6:11 PM ET

Box >

DETROIT -- Dontrelle Willis stood on the mound, his frustration mounting as pitch after pitch missed the strike zone.

The Tigers starter had hit a wall in the third inning of Thursday's game against the Red Sox. After starting the inning by hitting Jacoby Ellsbury, Willis walked four batters and allowed two runs to score, before he was removed from his shortest outing of the year. The Red Sox scored six runs in that inning, enough for a 6-3 win and a series sweep.

Willis (1-3) spent the first part of the year on the disabled list with an anxiety disorder diagnosed during Spring Training. Since rejoining the Tigers on May 13, he said he has been focusing on forgetting the previous pitch. He had been relatively successful with that approach, compiling two quality starts in four outings. But Thursday's game, Willis said, marked the first time this year he was unable to do that.

"This is the first time I was really flustered on the mound," Willis said. "I threw some good pitches, didn't get the calls, and I let that get the best of me today."

As Willis' struggles continued on the mound, Tigers manager Jim Leyland stood in the dugout feeling helpless, hoping to see strikes. But as his starter started spiraling -- a four-pitch and two-five pitch walks to let two runs score -- Leyland walked out and took the ball from Willis, who walked back to the dugout punching his glove and talking to himself.

When Leyland walked back to the dugout a few seconds later, he was talking, too. Only his words were directed at home-plate umpire Jeff Nelson, and concerned balls and strikes. Nelson quickly ejected Leyland, who said after the game that his actions were "out of line."

"It appeared that I was frustrated, and maybe I was frustrated for Dontrelle," Leyland said. "You want it so bad for a guy, and everyone else wants it for him and I overreacted."

Willis finished the game with no hits, five earned runs and five walks allowed. The last pitcher to throw at least two innings and allow five runs without a hit was Sandy Koufax on June 3, 1958. Given his outing, Willis appreciated his manager's willingness to fight for him.

"He continues to believe in me, and he told me that," Willis said. "... I kind of like it, seeing that fire."

After the teams batted out nine runs in the second and third innings, Red Sox starter Tim Wakefield and the two bullpens kept the scoring at bay through the rest of the afternoon. Wakefield (7-3) finished with 6 2/3 innings pitched, three earned runs, three strikeouts and no walks. Tigers pitchers combined for nine walks, the most the staff has issued this season, as the team was swept at Comerica Park for the first time this year.

First baseman Miguel Cabrera left the game after the top of the second inning with a pulled left hamstring. Cabrera said he suffered the injury when he hit a single to left field, but he was able to stay in the game and score the team's first run before being taken out. He is listed as day-to-day, and Cabrera hopes to play in Friday's game against the Angels.

"Right now I feel better," Cabrera said after the game. "We'll see how I feel tomorrow. Hopefully I can play tomorrow."

Reliever Zach Miner also left the game with a cramp in his right calf. He said the injury was minor and that he doesn't expect to miss any time.

Thursday's game against the Red Sox (32-22) marked the first time in team history that the Tigers (28-24) were involved in a situation involving instant replay. It happened when Jeff Larish hit a ball right at the right-field foul pole in the sixth inning. First-base umpire Mark Carlson ruled the ball foul. Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon came out to argue the call, and the umpires retreated to the umpires' room to look at the replay.

When they came back out, crew chief Tim Tschida signaled that the ball had been foul. Raburn grounded into a double play on the ensuing pitch. Leyland, who watched the replay from his office after being ejected, said the correct call was made.

The offense continued its struggles, managing no runs on seven hits throughout the last seven innings. But after the game, Willis blamed himself -- and his lack of composure on the mound -- as the reason for his team's third straight loss.

"I just got frustrated," Willis said. "That was the first time I ever had a call that didn't go my way, and I let it get to me. I can't do that."

Kyle Austin is an associate reporter to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


"If you have to choose between power and speed and it often turns out you have to make that choice, you've got to go for speed." Source: TV Guide Interview (April 3, 1982)
-- Sparky Anderson
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PostSubject: Re: Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker   Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker Icon_minitimeFri Jun 05, 2009 6:36 pm

D-Train's command woes
BECK'S BLOG

According to research on baseball-reference.com, Dontrelle Willis is the first Major League pitcher to allow at least five runs without a hit since then-Angel Mark Hutton on Aug. 20, 1995. He walked four batters, hit another one, then watched Anaheim's bullpen clear the bases.

The last pitcher to reach that statistical anomaly while still pitching at least two innings in a game? Try the great Sandy Koufax, who did it on June 3, 1958.

* Posted on June 4, 2009 at 3:49 PM


"If you have to choose between power and speed and it often turns out you have to make that choice, you've got to go for speed." Source: TV Guide Interview (April 3, 1982)
-- Sparky Anderson
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PostSubject: Re: Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker   Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker Icon_minitimeWed Jun 17, 2009 12:26 am

Willis to miss next scheduled start
Leyland yet to name starting pitcher for Saturday

By B.J. Rains / MLB.com

06/16/09 8:04 PM ET

ST. LOUIS -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland announced on Tuesday that struggling lefty Dontrelle Willis will not make his scheduled start on Saturday against the Milwaukee Brewers, but didn't say who would take his place or when Willis would pitch next.

Speaking before the first game of a three-game set in St. Louis, the Tigers' first trip back to Busch Stadium since losing the 2006 World Series in five games to the Cardinals, Leyland gave few details about the move.

"Dontrelle will not pitch Saturday," Leyland said. "And that's the end of the conversation. There's no further information that goes along with that. He will not pitch Saturday. No more questions about that."

Willis, who is 1-4 with a 7.49 ERA in seven starts since being activated from the disabled list on May 13th, lasted only 3 2/3 innings on Sunday against the Pirates, when he walked eight and gave up six runs on six hits.

Leyland said the pitching rotation had been planned through the weekend, but wouldn't name Saturday's starter when asked.

"No," Leyland said. "Because I can't."

The Tigers could move Willis to the bullpen or get his consent to send him back to the Minor Leagues to try and work out his struggles. A third and less likely option would be to release him.

Zach Miner appears to be the likely candidate to start in Willis' spot on Saturday if the Tigers don't call up a starter from Triple-A. Miner has a 0.79 ERA in his past five appearances, giving up one run in 11 1/3 innings, and Leyland has spoken well about him in recent days.

B.J. Rains is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


"If you have to choose between power and speed and it often turns out you have to make that choice, you've got to go for speed." Source: TV Guide Interview (April 3, 1982)
-- Sparky Anderson
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PostSubject: Re: Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker   Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker Icon_minitimeThu Jul 23, 2009 6:31 pm

Willis continues to work out in Triple-A
Left-hander set to throw third simulated game with Toledo

By Jason Beck / MLB.com

07/23/09 2:28 PM ET

DETROIT -- While the Tigers are at home through the weekend trying to strengthen their postseason hopes, Dontrelle Willis continues to work in Toledo, hoping to get back before the end of the regular season.

Back on the 15-day disabled list with an anxiety disorder for the second time this season, Willis sounds like someone trying to make a positive out of a tough situation.

"When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade," Willis said Monday from Fifth Third Field.

Willis is scheduled to throw a simulated game this week at Fifth Third Field, his third such effort since going down to Toledo earlier in the month. This one is expected to stretch him out to around 90 pitches.

Willis is working with Mud Hens pitching coach A.J. Sager on his mechanics. The focus, Willis said, is on keeping his arm out in front on his delivery, a reinforcement aimed at getting better consistency on his pitches. His arm, he said, feels fine. Aside from that, he's working out under the watch of strength coach Jovon Hubbard.

The other side of Willis' work, is off the field, and he's working on that outside of the Hens.

As for why he's working out in Toledo, even when the Tigers are in Detroit, president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said in an e-mail earlier this month that the recommendation of experts was for him to do his work there. Not only has he been working in Toledo during the Hens' homestand, but he traveled with the team to Buffalo last weekend to keep on working with the team.

Other than that, the Tigers haven't said much about Willis' work, partly out of medical privacy reasons, and probably out of their reluctance to create expectations after the first effort to bring back Willis from his DL stint worked only briefly. Willis said Monday he has no idea what the timetable would be on any possible Minor League rehab stint.

Willis could pitch on a rehab stint for up to 30 days. That would conceivably allow the Tigers to send out Willis on rehab in August, then potentially activate him from the DL when rosters expand in September.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


"If you have to choose between power and speed and it often turns out you have to make that choice, you've got to go for speed." Source: TV Guide Interview (April 3, 1982)
-- Sparky Anderson
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PostSubject: Re: Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker   Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker Icon_minitimeMon Aug 17, 2009 9:10 pm

D-Train scratched from rehab start
BECK'S BLOG
Posted on August 17, 2009 at 12:11 PM

Just found out from Tigers that Dontrelle Willis was pushed back from his rehab start tonight for Triple-A Toledo with soreness in his hip. He'll instead start Wednesday for the Mud Hens at Columbus.

UPDATE @ 6pm: Ruddy Lugo will start in Willis' place Monday night. Chris Lambert will make his Mud Hens return Tuesday.


"If you have to choose between power and speed and it often turns out you have to make that choice, you've got to go for speed." Source: TV Guide Interview (April 3, 1982)
-- Sparky Anderson
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PostSubject: Re: Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker   Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker Icon_minitimeThu Aug 20, 2009 6:09 pm

Willis to visit doctor on Thursday
Tigers lefty experiencing soreness in right hip

By Jason Beck / MLB.com

08/20/09 2:17 PM ET

DETROIT -- Dontrelle Willis was scheduled to visit with a doctor in Columbus, Ohio, on Thursday after leaving his rehab start for Triple-A Toledo Wednesday night with recurring soreness in his right hip.

Willis, who has been on the 15-day disabled list since mid-June with continued anxiety disorder, was making his first rehab outing in hopes of returning to the Tigers sometime in September. His sore hip pushed back his start from Monday to Wednesday, but it continued to bother him once he took the mound against the Clippers.

Willis lasted 1 1/3 innings before he couldn't go any longer. He gave up one run on a hit with one walk and one strikeout, throwing 13 of his 24 pitches for strikes, before he left the field.

Dr. Grant Jones was scheduled to examine Willis Thursday for what head athletic trainer Kevin Rand called diagnostic testing before the Tigers decide how to proceed from there.

Not until then will the Tigers know how long he could be out or whether he can continue trying to get back to Detroit this season.

The injury continues a season that never really got started for Willis. He began the year on the DL with anxiety disorder, but worked his way back to the Majors in May and made it back to the Tigers rotation. He pitched 6 1/3 scoreless innings against the Rangers on May 19 for his first Major League win since 2007, then pitched a quality start in his next outing, before his struggles with command returned. He was sent back to the DL after walking eight batters over 3 2/3 innings June 14 at Pittsburgh.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


"If you have to choose between power and speed and it often turns out you have to make that choice, you've got to go for speed." Source: TV Guide Interview (April 3, 1982)
-- Sparky Anderson
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PostSubject: Re: Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker   Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker Icon_minitimeSat Aug 29, 2009 8:34 pm

Dontrelle to make rehab start for Hens Sunday
BECK'S BLOG
Posted on August 29, 2009 at 5:49 PM

Dontrelle Willis, who has been working out with Triple-A Toledo for the past month or so, is scheduled to make a rehab start for the Mud Hens Sunday against Indianapolis, as first reported by the Toledo Blade's John Wagner. It'll be Willis' second try at a return to action after going on the disabled list in June with anxiety disorder. His last rehab start August 19 was cut short in the second inning with soreness in his right hip.

The Mud Hens' regular season schedule ends Sept. 7, so Willis likely has one more rehab start left after this.


"If you have to choose between power and speed and it often turns out you have to make that choice, you've got to go for speed." Source: TV Guide Interview (April 3, 1982)
-- Sparky Anderson
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PostSubject: Re: Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker   Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker Icon_minitimeSun Aug 30, 2009 11:49 pm

Dontrelle battles command in rehab outing
BECK'S BLOG
Posted on August 30, 2009 at 9:42 PM

Dontrelle Willis walked eight batters over four-plus innings in his rehab start for Triple-A Toledo Sunday night, taking the loss against the Pirates' Triple-A Indianapolis affiliate.

Willis, whose previous rehab outing was shortened by an injured right hip, was not in sync from the start. He walked four of the first five batters he faced, the exception in that stretch being a single, to allow two runs before a two-out single plated two more runs. He faced just one batter over the minimum over his next three innings before he walked all three batters he faced in the fifth.

Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish made the pitching change at that point. Willis threw 44 of his 99 pitches for strikes.


"If you have to choose between power and speed and it often turns out you have to make that choice, you've got to go for speed." Source: TV Guide Interview (April 3, 1982)
-- Sparky Anderson
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PostSubject: Re: Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker   Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker Icon_minitimeThu Sep 10, 2009 9:39 am

Willis' 2009 big league campaign over
Right-handed prospect Figaro also will not receive callup

By Jason Beck / MLB.com

09/08/09 9:45 PM ET

KANSAS CITY -- Dontrelle Willis' 2009 season is over, at least in terms of game competition. Though the Tigers recalled the left-hander from his Minor League rehab stint, they did not activate him from the 15-day disabled list. He will not be an additional September callup.

The Tigers decided the same with right-handed prospect Alfredo Figaro, who had spent the past couple weeks pitching in relief at Double-A Erie. Neither of them are scheduled to take part in the Tigers' fall instructional league, though Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said they'll consult with doctors on Willis' next step.

Willis had two separate DL stints this season with anxiety disorder -- the first costing him little more than a month to open the season, the second costing him the summer after the move in mid-June. He made three rehab outings down the stretch for Triple-A Toledo, including an eight-walk, four-inning outing Aug. 30 against Indianapolis, but concluding with 6 2/3 innings of two-run ball last Saturday at Columbus.

Willis also had been battling right hip soreness in his latest stint.

That wide range of performances was a microcosm of Willis' season as a whole. He earned his first win as a Tiger on May 19 with 6 1/3 scoreless innings of one-hit ball against Texas, but also walked eight Pirates over 3 2/3 innings four weeks later before he went on the DL. He finished the year with a 1-4 record and 7.49 ERA in seven starts.

Asked if there's still a Major League future in Willis, Dombrowski said he didn't know the answer.

"It's a very difficult and delicate situation for him," Dombrowski said. "I still think he has Major League abilities, a Major League arm, but obviously there are other things involved."

Willis has one more year remaining on the three-year, $29 million contract he signed soon after Detroit acquired him from Florida in December 2007.

Figaro made two starts for the Tigers in June, beating the Brewers with five innings and seven strikeouts on June 20 before giving up seven earned runs over six innings at Houston a week later. He went on the DL soon after that with a right wrist sprain.

Dombrowski said Figaro will likely be able to pitch in winter ball, as he has done in past offseasons.

The only remaining September addition for the Tigers, Leyland said, is a coach. Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish will join the club in Detroit this weekend.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


"If you have to choose between power and speed and it often turns out you have to make that choice, you've got to go for speed." Source: TV Guide Interview (April 3, 1982)
-- Sparky Anderson
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PostSubject: Re: Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker   Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker Icon_minitimeThu Sep 10, 2009 9:41 am

Leyland praises Willis' efforts to return
Tigers' left-hander battled through roller-coaster season

By Jason Beck / MLB.com

09/09/09 8:16 PM ET

KANSAS CITY -- Dontrelle Willis won't be back with the Tigers in September, but manager Jim Leyland said he put in the effort to try to get back.

A day after the Tigers made it official that Willis will not be a September callup, Leyland went out of his way to praise the left-hander for his work through a challenging season. And while Leyland reiterated his belief that Willis could benefit from pitching this winter, he allowed for the possibility that Willis should take a step back, which seems much more likely.

Willis finished a difficult season with six innings of two-run ball last Saturday for Triple-A Toledo, finishing his Mud Hens stint with a 3-1 record and 4.45 ERA in six starts over two separate rehab stints. He walked 14 and struck out 20.

In between were seven starts with Detroit and two DL stints with an anxiety disorder, the second costing him the final 2 1/2 months of the season.

"I think it's been grueling on him," Leyland said. "I think he's been very cooperative. I think he's trying his tail off. I tip my hat to him. You feel bad for him."

As tough as it is, Leyland added he'd rather not see Willis stop now, even if it's just for the winter. He would like to see Willis continue to pitch this offseason, but said it's only his own opinion.

"He needs to go on the mound on a consistent basis at some point," Leyland said. "I don't know what his plan is. I have not talked to him. It's a tough one, because you don't know the process, how people are dealing with it. ...

"I mean, for his sake, let alone ours, he needs to see as many hitters as he can on a consistent basis on the mound. But once again, on the other side of that, people may say that's not true right now. Maybe he needs to get away from it. I don't know. So I've tried to stay out of it."

The most likely scenario is that Willis will take a step back. His agent, Matt Sosnick, said Wednesday that their plans are for Willis to return home to be with his family and start his offseason work, though he said that plan could change.

The wide range of Willis' performances was a microcosm of his season as a whole. He earned his first win with the Tigers May 19 with 6 1/3 scoreless innings of one-hit ball against Texas, but also walked eight Pirates over 3 2/3 innings four weeks later before he went on the DL. He finished the year with a 1-4 record and 7.49 ERA for Detroit.

Willis has one more year remaining on the three-year, $29 million contract, which he signed soon after the Tigers acquired him from Florida in December 2007.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


"If you have to choose between power and speed and it often turns out you have to make that choice, you've got to go for speed." Source: TV Guide Interview (April 3, 1982)
-- Sparky Anderson
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PostSubject: Re: Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker   Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker Icon_minitimeSat Jan 23, 2010 12:39 am

Posted: 4:36 p.m. Jan. 22, 2010
Tigers' Dontrelle Willis feels good after off-season at Arizona facility

By JOHN LOWE
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER

Even though his two years in Detroit have been empty, Dontrelle Willis this week portrayed the man in full. He was impeccably dressed, smiling and upbeat, as the optimism poured out of him.

“I’m doing wonderful — I’m very excited to be here,” Willis said. “I worked my tail off this off-season, and I’m just ready to go out there and have a good beginning.”

Willis spent time in Arizona at the Athletes’ Performance institute. These words appear on its Web site: “We provide the finest performance methods, specialists and facilities to help our athletes attain their goals in an ethical manner.”

For several off-seasons now, athletes from major pro sports have participated in the Athletes’ Performance program. The baseball players who have posted testimonials on the company’s site include Phillies second baseman Chase Utley, Tampa Bay outfielder Carl Crawford and Boston first baseman Kevin Youkilis. Willis said his fellow participants this off-season included Tampa Bay All-Star third baseman Evan Longoria and Boston pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka.

“I picked their brains,” Willis said. “It is a great place to work out. I think everybody came out of there a little better.”

He said he went to Athletes’ Performance on his own, not at the club’s suggestion.

As the Tigers caravan began this week, Willis said that he has already has begun throwing at the Tigers’ spring-training base in Lakeland, Fla.

“I’m confident enough to know that I’ll do whatever it takes for the team to need me,” the left-hander said. “I don’t care if it’s starting or relieving. I just want to help the team win.”

For Willis to make the team, he first must show that he can throw strikes consistently — something he hasn’t done in his two Tigers seasons.

Willis is 28. He enters the final year of the three-year, $29-million contract the Tigers gave him before he threw a pitch for them. Yet he still expects success. He showed that this week with his smile and his attire.

“Most definitely,” he said, asked whether he felt confident he’d be a vital part of this year’s Tigers. “I wouldn’t be here in a suit if I didn’t.”

Contact JOHN LOWE: 313-223-4053 or jlowe@freepress.com. Check out his Tigers blog at freep.com/section/blog18.


"If you have to choose between power and speed and it often turns out you have to make that choice, you've got to go for speed." Source: TV Guide Interview (April 3, 1982)
-- Sparky Anderson
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PostSubject: Re: Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker   Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker Icon_minitimeWed Feb 17, 2010 4:32 pm

Last Updated: February 17. 2010 1:22PM
Tigers' Dontrelle Willis: 'The issue is, I'm terrible'
Lynn Henning / The Detroit News

Lakeland, Fla. -- Appearances would have you believe Dontrelle Willis is headed for another All-Star Game.

His body: sturdy and strong. His mind: quick, agile, upbeat. His pitching prospects: as uncertain as they have been since a once-luminous big-league left-hander's career went into the ditch in 2008, a few months after the Tigers acquired him in a monster trade with the Florida Marlins.

Willis acknowledged as much Tuesday as he sat in front of his locker inside the Tigers clubhouse at Marchant Stadium. A blue towel was draped around his neck, evidence of a workout that had begun early in the morning.

"People see me smiling, but I think they're confused about what the issue is with Dontrelle Willis," said a pitcher who has spent most of the past two seasons on the disabled list, with one victory since joining the Tigers. "To me, the issue is, I'm terrible.

"I get more stuff like, 'He looks fine.' But you've got to be careful with stuff like that."

Willis' big-league storyline is well-documented. A pitcher who last month turned 28 won 14 games as a rookie with the Marlins in 2003, then racked up a league-high 22 victories in 2005, when he was all of 23. In each season he made the National League All-Star team.

His numbers fell off significantly in 2007, when his earned-run average rose to 5.17 from 3.87 in 2006 and 2.83 in 2005. But the slippage was considered by the Tigers to be relative. Willis still threw 205 innings in 2007. He had a warrior's resume. And he was 25.

The Tigers viewed Willis as the deal-clincher when they traded six players to the Marlins for a package highlighted by Miguel Cabrera. His new team was so thrilled to have a big-innings, power-pitching left-hander on the roster that Willis was signed for $7 million in 2008, and to a two-year extension: $10 million for 2009, $12 million for 2010.

The deal hasn't quite worked out. Not for the Tigers. Willis was 0-2 with a 9.38 ERA in 2008, pitching in only eight games before his control problems became so excruciating he was sent to the Tigertown complex to simply try and rediscover some basic pitching competency.

A year ago, when things went no better during spring camp, Willis was diagnosed with anxiety disorder and placed on the disabled list. He returned to the Tigers for a seven-game stint in May and June but was no better than he had been in 2008. He was 1-4 with a 7.49 ERA, walking 28 batters in 33 2/3 innings.

He went back on the DL in June with the same diagnosis: anxiety disorder.

Willis concedes he doesn't fully understand the doctors' findings.

"Those are the cards they chose to deal to me," he said of the clinical evaluation.

What has he learned about anxiety and its possible effects on him?

"Nothing," he said.

Does he take medication for his disorder?

"No medication."

Does he believe he has a defined medical problem under control heading into 2010?

"I don't try to mess with that stuff," he said. "I leave it in God's hands. I'm not gonna get down, personally. I'm gonna continue to try and be a good teammate."

Willis, in fact, has always been considered just that: "a great teammate," his manager, Jim Leyland, has said any number of times.

He was known during his Marlins days as a consummate good guy. He was a talker, he was ebullient, he was invariably approachable. He loved laughing and talking with teammates.

His profile has been no different in Detroit, except, of course, for the pitching part.

Willis understands 2010 could be the end for him. His contract is up, and so, too, might be his baseball career if he can't harness his otherwise capable pitches.

"Hey, they've got to get someone else to win," he said, in a matter of fact voice, sizing up his chances to find work in the big leagues. "The bottom line is, you're struggling."

But try and discern that Willis is feeling any stress or undue pressure as he reports for his third Tigers spring camp.

It isn't there. Not on the surface.

"This is the year I'm happy to showcase my stuff," said a pitcher who is widely respected for his work ethic and job dedication. "I've never been so excited to play baseball.

"I think we make this game too complicated sometimes," he said. "Sometimes you have to step back and remind yourself that you don't have to be perfect.

"We all want to be good. I know when I'm on I can be a force for this team."

The money, he says, is not the issue for players that it is for fans. In fact, people who fill ballparks and who make perhaps $50,000 a year, if they're lucky enough to be employed, have a difficult time believing that baseball stars who make $10 million or $12 million a year are not overwhelmed with thoughts about their riches.

They find that especially tough to swallow when a pitcher has been an abject failure on the pitching mound the past two seasons.

But Willis and his big-league colleagues have a different take on money and performance. It's the latter they most care about. Their professional and athletic pride, the essence of their esteem as athletes, is what drives them. The money, hard as it is to believe for fans, is a numeral that provides one consolation: financial security.

It isn't enough for Willis, he repeated Tuesday.

"I don't think about that (dollars) when I'm walking guys," he said. "I want to get 'em out. I made a lot less money when I was pitching a lot better.

"I just want to be successful for my team. This is a hard game, a humbling game.

"But you're gonna see an energized guy out there.

"That, you'll always see."

lynn.henning@detnews.com

From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100217/SPORTS0104/2170397/1129/rss15#ixzz0fpLo4ReT


"If you have to choose between power and speed and it often turns out you have to make that choice, you've got to go for speed." Source: TV Guide Interview (April 3, 1982)
-- Sparky Anderson
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PostSubject: Re: Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker   Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker Icon_minitimeFri Feb 26, 2010 10:16 pm

Enthusiastic Willis focusing on pitching
Lefty in tremendous physical shape at Spring Training

By Jason Beck / MLB.com

02/26/10 7:15 PM EST

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Friday was Dontrelle Willis' first chance to read how hitters react to a pitch. Everyone else was reading his reactions.

It isn't hard to do.

"Oh, Lord," he exclaimed as outfield prospect Casper Wells took one of his fastballs deep to left.

Miguel Cabrera said the same thing as he watched his friend and teammate from the bench. Others were no doubt thinking it.

They had better thoughts when Willis broke a fastball in on Wells the next time he stepped into the batter's box. They were more impressed when Willis followed with a sinker that Wells hit meekly for a grounder.

"I like it, I like it, I like it," yelled Cabrera, who broke into the Majors with Willis in Florida in 2003.

Willis nodded in his approval, as he always does after a good pitch.

"I figured you out now," he said jokingly to Wells.

Nobody has been able to say that about Willis the past couple years. But that's not the issue in this camp right now.

This is who Willis is, this enthusiastic left-hander, and the Tigers want him to be himself. But compared with the last couple years, this is a little different. The delivery is a little subdued, much more fluid and much easier on tempo. The body language looks more positive. The focus is a little more sharp.

"When you slow the game down and really take a step back," Willis said, "I was able to see things that I wasn't able to see last year. Casper alone, after the home run, I threw a fastball in and he had trouble with it. And then I was able to go back with that, throw a sinker and get a ground ball. So those are little things that you can see when you slow the game down and really just take a step back."

Willis would rather shift his focus to hitters. He's had plenty of time in the spotlight himself.

What all this means for his game, nobody knows. Nobody can pretend to know how this Spring Training will turn out for Willis. His odds of regaining his old success, obviously, seem long after two years of struggles, disabled-list stints, starts and stops at Triple-A Toledo. Even a return to the big leagues might not be enough to soothe many fans who remember his control woes resurfacing last June against Pittsburgh.

At the same time, a look at Willis suggests next to nothing of a pitcher with his career in question. He's in tremendous physical shape. He's one of the most popular players in the clubhouse, right in the middle where the starters have their lockers. He talks with everybody, and everybody talks with him.

"I think Dontrelle looks like a totally different person this spring," manager Jim Leyland said. "I think he looks relaxed. He's been throwing great. He's got good energy. He's fun to be around. I'm really happy with him. I'm happy how he's going about it. He just looks like a more confident person."

Willis can't promise success. All he can do is try. If this is his last shot, he's going to throw everything he has into this comeback attempt, more than some people in his situation might reasonably do.

If he doesn't make it, it won't be for lack of effort. To him, it won't be for any reason other than he didn't pitch well.

"My personality, I'm never going to be a person that makes excuses for myself," Willis said. "That's what I don't really like, when they say [anxiety disorder]."

He never actually used the term by name, but after two DL stints last year, the term is there. It might be perception or semantics. What might be called anxiety, he calls worrying about things other than his game. That's a difference with him now, he said.

"You know, the biggest thing is not getting away from who you are," he said. "I fell into it. I got away from who I was. I think I got too caught up worrying about other things, outside things as far as how the hitters are, instead of worrying about myself. And then, when you get into a situation where you're in trouble, I wasn't able to correct that. Now I'm just worrying about myself, and throwing the ball over the plate and making people adjust to me."

Willis didn't throw the kitchen sink at hitters Friday, nor did he try to paint the corners. He simplified his approach to throwing fastballs and sinkers, and aiming for segments of the plate rather than corners. He told catcher Alex Avila to think about thirds of the strike zone and let his fastball move, which it did.

"Really, I just wanted to get back to the basics," he said. "I feel like when I'm going good, I can be effective just throwing different types of fastballs, four-seamers and two-seamers, adding and subtracting [velocity]. And that's what I wanted to get back to and really work on today. It was good. I was around the zone the whole day. Threw a bunch of good sinkers."

When Willis didn't, it didn't last long. He showed signs of being able to fix his mechanics on his own. As unusual as his delivery is, it's something he realistically has to do.

"I had about three pitches that sailed on me, and I made adjustments," Willis said. "To be able to make the adjustments and not be [at] pitch 12, pitch 13, and really throw a quality strike and get guys to hit it, I think that's what I wanted to do today."

It isn't glamorous, but it has a chance to be effective if he's consistent with it. It's also basic enough for now that he can build off it without getting overwhelmed.

That high-strikeout, high-velocity pitcher from years ago, the one with the big leg kick and big curveball, might be a little much. Willis isn't Justin Verlander or Rick Porcello, he says. He's not going to try to hit the edge of the plate.

"They have the ability to do that," he said. "I don't have the ability. But at the same time, that doesn't mean I'm not a good pitcher."

When anxiety disorder comes up, Willis is very careful discussing it, because of the connotation. It's a wide-ranging term that encompasses a lot of conditions, not all of which fit him.

"I had people coming up to me, just randomly thinking I was going to [do something drastic], because they don't really understand," Willis said. "And I don't, either, so I really don't get into it."

Understanding it in relation to his season is complicated, too. The eight-walk performance against the Pirates was clearly the low point, but he also had games in which he looked like a confident pitcher.

"I threw well against Texas [for six-plus scoreless innings last May]," Willis said. "I threw well against Colorado [with a quality start May 24]. So it's like, well, when does it come? Not to be funny, but when is it a problem? And I was like, 'Listen, I'm not getting into that.' Just get something consistent [pitching wise], go from there, take a step back and get back to form. That's it, man."

That doesn't mean he's dismissing it, but he's keeping it out of his mind. He wants to think about baseball, and the Tigers are glad to let him. They're giving him the same shot as their other candidates for the open spot in the rotation. He doesn't want special treatment, and he doesn't want to simply collect a check, despite $12 million guaranteed in the final year of his contract. He's here to try to compete.

"Everybody knows the story," Willis said. "To come back here and really be a man, I'm not hiding from anybody. I know I can get the job done. I think they see that. I think they see I worked hard this offseason to try to get back in form.

"I play because I love doing this. When I get done, I'll coach. I just love being around here. I love the game, and the game has blessed me with so many things. But I feel I still have the ability to play."

And if it doesn't work out, so be it.

"I wouldn't change a thing, the good or the bad," he said. "I think baseball molds you through the bad, to be able to learn how to fail or succeed with class and pride. I'm glad that baseball helped me with that aspect, and I've been on both sides. It's a good thing."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


"If you have to choose between power and speed and it often turns out you have to make that choice, you've got to go for speed." Source: TV Guide Interview (April 3, 1982)
-- Sparky Anderson
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PostSubject: Re: Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker   Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker Icon_minitimeTue Mar 09, 2010 7:00 pm

Last Updated: March 09. 2010 4:32PM
Lynn Henning
Tigers' Dontrelle Willis has made 'huge progress'

Viera, Fla. -- Carefully, you ask the Tigers manager if he has seen anything different in Dontrelle Willis during these first weeks of spring camp.

The caution has to do with past history. Willis, the Tigers left-hander who has had two horribly difficult years in Detroit, has had his moments since joining the Tigers in December of 2007.

Those moments gave way to harsher realities. Willis couldn't get the ball over the plate.

With past hopes and disappointments in mind, could Jim Leyland say anything significantly was different with a 28-year-old former All-Star who has been one of the game's most mysterious failures the past two seasons?

"I think he's made huge progress," Leyland said an hour before the Tigers and Washington Nationals met Tuesday at Space Coast Stadium. "I've been very pleased with his command around the strike zone.

"I'm very thrilled. I'm trying to stay out of it, I'm going slow. But I've been very impressed. He's made strides.

"I think he's done great. I'm very thrilled with his progress."

Willis has pitched in two games spanning four innings. He has walked three (control issues haven't vanished), struck out four, and allowed only one hit. If all the crazy turns and twists have somehow slipped into Willis' past, he would emerge as the happiest story of pitching triumph for the Tigers since John Hiller came back from a heart attack to become a bullpen ace in the 1970s.

Willis' baffling, bewildering fall from baseball's pitching elite has been a story strewn with wreckage and heartbreak.

But if the Tigers could regain Willis and his old skills as quickly as they went into a death spiral two years ago, they would be reunited with an immensely important pitcher. Willis would all but cement for Leyland a starting rotation that right now is a crisis in the making unless some combination of Willis, Nate Robertson, Jeremy Bonderman and Armando Galarraga provide for the Tigers two reliable back-end starters.

Payroll is an issue, of course. The Tigers are on the hook for $12 million in salary to Willis in 2010. They owe Bonderman $12.5 million and Robertson $10 million.

It would benefit the Tigers' front office as much as it would help Leyland if a couple of the above would contribute in line with their paydays. In fact, now that Joe Nathan looks as if he is finished for the year with the Twins (possible Tommy John surgery), the Tigers could end up as a division favorite, but only if a couple of high-profile starters can make genuine comebacks in 2010.

If a pitcher's colleagues can make a difference, Leyland likes Willis' chances.

"I've never been around a team where teammates are pulling for a guy the way they are for Dontrelle," Leyland said. "It's a testament to the character of our team."

Willis is responsible for the rooting section. He is one of the best-liked players on the team. Part of the reason: He has kept his head up and his spirits high even during some of the most cruel moments any pitcher in baseball has experienced, and save your protests about a guy making that kind of money and how he should respond.

Money never matters to athletes as anything other than business principle. It's competing they live for. That's their pride.

That's why a team -- and a manager -- are boosting a pitcher who's trying mightily to reacquaint himself with his old competitive luster.

lynn.henning@detnews.com

From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100309/OPINION03/3090408/Tigers--Dontrelle-Willis-has-made--huge-progress-#ixzz0hitaczgc


"If you have to choose between power and speed and it often turns out you have to make that choice, you've got to go for speed." Source: TV Guide Interview (April 3, 1982)
-- Sparky Anderson
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PostSubject: Re: Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker   Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker Icon_minitimeWed Mar 10, 2010 8:11 pm

Dontrelle effective again, but also injured
BECK'S BLOG
Posted on March 8, 2010 at 7:13 PM

Two outings into what could arguably be a make-or-break spring training, Dontrelle Willis looks far better than he has at any other point as a Tiger. Yet if it seems like there's a bad break ahead for the D-Train, it's possible he found it Monday in the form of a hyperextended left elbow suffered on a quick pickoff throw.

Willis said he's fine and that he'll be playing catch tomorrow. Still, his voice was just a little more downtrodden than one might expect from someone who just tossed his second consecutive outing of two scoreless innings. As of Monday afternoon, Leyland had yet to hear from the team medical staff as to whether the injury is bad at all.

"I'll be out there tomorrow long-tossing and stuff," Willis said, "so I'm fine. Just tweaked something. They're just doing precautionary on me, but I'm OK."

If it indeed isn't bad, then Willis will start Saturday at home against the Yankees to try to continue what could well be the early stages of a career comeback.

Willis entered after the Braves had roughed up Max Scherzer and Fu-Te Ni for eight runs over the first two innings. He retired the side in order in the third inning in just seven pitches, six of them strikes. He headed back into the dugout to a seriously enthusiastic ovation.

"Just trying to focus, understand I'm one pitch away every time I throw the ball, and every pitch is for a purpose," Willis said. "I was able to establish that and get some good ground balls. As long as they're taking a right turn, that's a good thing."

Willis came back out and, like he did in both innings of his previous outing, gave up a leadoff walk to Jason Heyward, who hit about a 450-foot homer off Max Scherzer in his previous time up. Willis' first-pitch ball to Freddie Freeman was his last of the day he hit the zone for his next three pitches before getting Freeman to swing and miss at a fastball with movement for the first out.

Up came Eric Hinske, and down he went on three pitches -- a slider and two fastballs -- taking a called third strike.

It was then that manager Jim Leyland and assistant athletic trainer Steve Carter came out to check on Willis, who was telling him he was fine before they could even get to the first-base line.

Willis finished off his outing with a slow groundout from Lakeland native Matt Diaz, who's 10-for-24 off him in his regular-season career.

"I think Matt Diaz is like 99-for-100 off me," Willis said.

What stands out about Willis, obviously, is his ability to stay around the strike zone, first and foremost. But he's also much more consistent in his delivery, on Monday in particular. He said after his last outing last Thursday that he was more comfortable out of the stretch than the windup. They worked on that between outings and seemed to have not only a more comfortable release, but something he could repeat with the same mechanics each time.

"Me and Jonesy worked got in the bullpen and just tried to work on something that's comfortable for me and to have the ability to repeat that over and over," Willis said, referring to bullpen coach Jeff Jones. "Guys that are good are able to repeat their delivery over and over again, as many times as they need to, to be efficient. I thought it was something pretty good thus far."

As incredible as it sounds -- not to mention way too early to evaluate -- but it's plausible to say that at this point in spring training, Willis has looked as good or better than any of the handful of candidates for those final two spots in the rotation. That means next to nothing right now competitively, but it means volumes for how good Willis looks right now compared to last year or the year before.

Think about it: Willis was pitching in simulated games around this point last year. Instead, he'll start against the Yankees in a split-squad game on Saturday at Joker Marchant Stadium.

"Sometimes you need to struggle, and God puts you through things to humble yourself, so to speak, and really make you understand that we're a blessed few, man," he said. "I'm proud to have a name on my jersey, and I'm proud to be part of a historic organization that's been around since the beginning. When you walk through our locker room, you see all these big names and you just want to be a part of something.

"If I'm on, I know I can be a help for this team. I know I can be a help for any team."


"If you have to choose between power and speed and it often turns out you have to make that choice, you've got to go for speed." Source: TV Guide Interview (April 3, 1982)
-- Sparky Anderson
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PostSubject: Re: Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker   Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker Icon_minitimeFri Mar 19, 2010 6:45 am

Willis in good spirits after scoreless effort
Lefty determined not to let ailments get in way of next start

By Anthony DiComo / MLB.com

03/18/10 6:48 PM ET

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The injury was two innings old by this point, but Dontrelle Willis' discomfort was growing more and more obvious. Taking notice, Tigers manager Jim Leyland walked to the mound.

Willis told Leyland he was fine. And he was fine.

Kind of.

Truth is, Willis was struggling through back spasms all afternoon, a product of flailing for Kazuo Matsui's sharp grounder in the first. Leyland understood that. But Willis was also competing for a rotation spot and for a bit of Major League redemption. Leyland understood that, too.

The result was a compromise: Leyland allowed Willis to stay in the game and escape from a jam, but he did not allow him to return for his fourth and final scheduled inning against the Astros. Instead, the left-hander headed to the trainer's room to receive treatment on his ailing back.

"I'll be fine," Willis said.

"I always take the precautionary measure," Leyland said. "I probably should have done it earlier."

"He understands I'm battling out there," Willis said.

The play in question was the second of the game. Willis, coming off three superb Grapefruit League outings, dealt a strike to Matsui. And Matsui slammed it into the ground, just to the right of Willis.

Instinct took over and he lunged for the ball, which skipped off his glove and into that of Adam Everett.

It was a mistake.

"Adam had it anyway," Willis said. "I don't know what I was thinking."

The next batter, Hunter Pence, cracked a line drive into Willis' glove, where it crashed into his non-pitching thumb at an awkward angle. No doubt, this was a painful Thursday.

Some ice treatment had Willis in good spirits afterward, hoping and expecting to make his next start. Even with the Tigers' optioning of Armando Galarraga to Triple-A earlier in the day, Willis still has three others -- Jeremy Bonderman, Eddie Bonine and Nate Robertson -- to battle for the two open spots in Leyland's rotation. He cannot afford to miss any time.

Thursday's outing, despite the pain, was yet another step in the right direction. Retiring the first seven batters he faced, Willis stumbled just a bit in the third, when he walked one batter and hit another. But after shooing off Leyland, Willis managed to escape from that jam, too.

He came out broken a bit, but proud. Showing a bit of mettle never hurt anyone.

"It was a good day," Willis said.

It's been a good spring in general for Willis, whose early successes have made him a favorite to make the team. Ask Leyland if he believes Willis may have finally rediscovered what made him so successful with the Marlins, and he'll respond with a shrug. Certainly, the lefty's 8.27 ERA over the past two seasons carries more weight than his 0.90 mark over 10 Grapefruit League innings.

But Willis is also older now -- 28 and counting -- and certainly more mature. He believes he has turned a corner. The Tigers can only hope.

"You give up enough home runs, you'll start to learn," Willis said. "You give up enough walks, there's only two things you can do: you can be frustrated, or you can try to learn from that and try to better yourself."

He has confidence now, and for Willis, the equation is simple: confidence plus success equals fun.

Thursday, though he was decidedly less animated on the mound than usual, Willis said he was having fun. He did his best to ignore the back pain and focused instead on the Astros' hitters.

It worked -- three scoreless innings were the proof. So now he's looking to recover from the back scare, make three more spring starts and -- hopefully -- break camp with the team.

Over the past three years, Willis has fallen all the way down to Class A Lakeland, has worked his way back to the Majors, has been placed on the disabled list twice for an anxiety disorder and has been openly booed by fans.

Some back spasms, a sore thumb and a bit of uncertainty weren't going to affect him.

"I must be one of the most frustrating guys ever to watch," Willis said. "You never know what you're going to get. But as long as we're getting people out, that's a good thing."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


"If you have to choose between power and speed and it often turns out you have to make that choice, you've got to go for speed." Source: TV Guide Interview (April 3, 1982)
-- Sparky Anderson
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PostSubject: Re: Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker   Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker Icon_minitimeThu Mar 25, 2010 7:08 pm

Willis steadies ship, finishes start strong
Left-hander struggles with control but has manager's faith

By Jason Beck / MLB.com

03/25/10 5:06 PM ET

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Don't tell Dontrelle Willis and Jeremy Bonderman this was a particularly big day for them.

"It's a big day for me every day, especially in my situation," Willis said.

Yet as Willis tried to work his way out of some of his first real command woes of the spring, there was supposedly no thought in his manager's mind that this was the outing for it to come apart.

That, in itself, says plenty about his spring. Whatever happens with the Tigers rotation, this has been a Dontrelle Willis comeback.

Willis started the front end of the Tigers' split-squad games Thursday afternoon against the Blue Jays. In four innings, he allowed one run on two hits, with three walks and three strikeouts. Bonderman was slated to start the nightcap against the Nationals in Viera, Fla. Even if they're not necessarily competing against each other -- Bonderman could be in a position to win the fourth spot in the rotation -- that didn't diminish the importance for either of them.

"I'd say these are probably two of the more important games of the spring so far," manager Jim Leyland said.

Willis' opening inning was the first in a while where he truly looked out of sync, as he struggled to find his rhythm early. He walked Toronto's first two batters. After striking out Adam Lind, he threw a pitch well outside on Vernon Wells and to the backstop, as Mike McCoy and John McDonald took off on a double steal.

Yet there was no mound visit, no pep talk from Leyland or pitching coach Rick Knapp to try to calm him down. They had to see whether he could work out of trouble on his own, but they also seemingly believed he could.

"I don't think anything he's been through before is an issue anymore," Leyland said after the game. "I don't worry about him bouncing back with his command. His demeanor and everything, he's been different this spring. You don't know if you're right, but I didn't worry he was going to blow up or anything. I thought he'd come back and throw the ball over the plate."

Willis did. He recovered to escape with a lone run allowed in his 22-pitch, 11-strike opening inning. He retired Jeremy Reed to lead off the second and put Edwin Encarnacion in a 1-2 count before he threw another one to the backstop untouched. Willis eventually lost Encarnacion to a walk before getting back-to-back ground ball outs.

Willis said it was an issue of working too slowly.

"Sometimes it's good to get in trouble early and pick up your tempo," he said after his outing.

Willis changed speeds and varied pitches much more than in some previous starts, and he got some good results when he did. Lind's strikeout came when Willis followed a 91-mph fastball with an 81-mph offspeed pitch. He also had enough movement to get several swings and misses, including three from Travis Snider to end his fourth and final inning, capped by a two-seamer that darted for the dirt.

Willis topped out at 94 mph on one of his 70 pitches for the outing, with several others at 92. For a game in which he didn't have anywhere near his best stuff, his damage control was respectable. Whether it means anything for his evaluation will be decided in the coming days.

"I thought his overall stuff was better," Leyland said, "but his command wasn't quite as good as it's been."

To judge from Leyland's comments Thursday morning, the criteria for making the rotation are pretty simple.

"It always boils down for me to who's got the best chance to get outs," Leyland said. "And that's how it should be. Who gives us the best chance to win?"

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


"If you have to choose between power and speed and it often turns out you have to make that choice, you've got to go for speed." Source: TV Guide Interview (April 3, 1982)
-- Sparky Anderson
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PostSubject: Re: Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker   Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker Icon_minitimeTue Mar 30, 2010 9:21 pm

Willis earns rotation job after strong spring
Offseason of hard work pays dividends for Tigers left-hander

By Jason Beck / MLB.com

03/30/10 7:30 PM ET

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Dontrelle Willis did not know his fate in the Tigers' rotation when he took the mound Tuesday afternoon to face the Orioles. He finally found out when he left it.

In fact, he found out exactly when he left it.

"Skip told me on the mound today right before he took me out," Willis said. "He said, 'I'm proud of you. The way you threw the ball today, you're going to get a lot of people out. You made the team. Now get off my field.'"


Tigers manager Jim Leyland made the move to pull Willis after back-to-back walks had loaded the bases in the fifth inning of an outing that looked statistically like the Willis of the past two years. If that's the closest he gets to that old form -- and it was by far the roughest outing he had this spring -- they'll be quite happy.

He pounded his fist in his glove as he walked off the mound, still flustered a bit over his outing. But he'll be taking the field again on April 8 at Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium.

"I think I put together a great spring," Willis said. "I'm not done though. I'm not content. I want to continue to work hard. I'm just thankful. I'm very thankful."

The numbers on Wednesday were a bit deceiving. Though he walked four Orioles over his 4 1/3 innings, he was around the strike zone for much of his outing. All of his walks came from the fourth inning on, and they came to the same two hitters -- Garrett Atkins and Luke Scott. Three of the seven hits he allowed came in part as a result of defensive misplays.

For the first three innings, Willis looked much like his top form for much the spring, inducing swings and misses and getting ahead in counts. He struck out three of the first five batters he faced.

"Today I battled," Willis said. "I was in between on what I wanted to do. Every time I second-guessed [catcher] Alex [Avlia], I got beat, which is a good thing because Alex, for being such a young guy, he's calling the right pitches. But I had good life on the ball today. It just didn't go my way."

The guy who took the ball from him agreed.

"I thought he was very good today," Leyland said. "I don't think that was any kind of what we saw in the past. He was missing down. He was missing close. He was making them mishit the ball quite a bit. If he throws like that, he'll get a lot of outs."

It was his first outing all spring that really didn't go his way. Lou Montanez's bases-clearing triple in the fourth inning drove in more runs (three) than Willis had allowed all spring up to that point (two). His five runs allowed Tuesday still didn't ruin his ERA, bumping it to a respectable 3.26.

That's how well Willis' spring had gone. That's how Willis earned the Tigers' trust to put him in the rotation after two years of command woes, injuries, rehab assignments at Triple-A Toledo and stints on the disabled list.

"We have a lot of confidence in him coming back," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "I think he's done a lot. He's pitched well this spring. I don't know what else [he could do]. You keep looking.

"I know, the other day, it kind of came to me. We talked about it, and then all of a sudden I look up, and he's third in all of Major League Baseball in earned-run average [at 1.20 entering Tuesday]. And he's thrown the ball well, too. He's worked hard. He's put himself in a position to win a spot. We feel comfortable he'll do a good job for us."

At one point, Dombrowski said, a scout from another organization told him that Willis looked more like his old form from his better days in Florida.

For Willis, there was very little that was sudden about his return to form. It began with an offseason mindset, and continued into the winter with a trip to a performance training center in Arizona.

Asked by a reporter what was the important step he took to get to this point, Willis paused.

"Humbling myself," he said, "really taking a step back and doing some soul-searching and really asking myself, 'Can I play this game? And do I still love it? And am I still having fun doing it?' And I am. Even after today, I have fun just learning what I can do in situations and what I can't do. When you see the game, it slows it down. And when you're having fun, it slows it down. You can recognize what you're doing well and what you're not doing well.

"Last year, I couldn't answer that. I couldn't tell you what I was doing wrong. It was just an avalanche of things."

Around the same time, things were going quite well back at Tigertown for Jeremy Bonderman, who took the other rotation spot. He pitched seven scoreless innings for Class A Lakeland against Houston's affiliate at Lancaster, who managed just three hits. Bonderman walked two and struck out six.

These were supposed to be the last outings for both of them before the rotation was decided. Turns out they had already pushed the decisions by the way they pitched.

"As for my command and how my ball's coming out, I feel real confident I can get guys out," Willis said. "I'm very excited for myself and where I am, to help this team."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


"If you have to choose between power and speed and it often turns out you have to make that choice, you've got to go for speed." Source: TV Guide Interview (April 3, 1982)
-- Sparky Anderson
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PostSubject: Re: Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker   Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker Icon_minitimeThu Apr 08, 2010 8:20 am

Willis downplays significance of start
Tigers lefty focused on results after fixing command issues

By Jason Beck / MLB.com

04/08/10 2:21 AM ET

KANSAS CITY -- Tigers left-hander Dontrelle Willis is not going to make a big deal about his first outing of the season. If he does his job, he figures, it shouldn't be a big deal. He'll have no family or friends at Kauffman Stadium to watch his return, nor did he expect them to make the trip.

For someone whose comeback is so unique, he wants his return to be humdrum, even if it's almost impossible not to note the significance. He made his big feat by making the rotation out of Spring Training, but he's worked his way back to the big leagues before.

Now he wants starts and he wants outs to keep him here. He still wants to have fun, plans on it, but he wants results.

"They all mean the same," Willis said. "I don't really get into all that. I'm just excited to play and go out there. Because hopefully, I'll have 32 of these or 35 of these, whatever the number. I'm just ready to go out there and play."

How tough have the past couple seasons been for Willis? He's beginning his third season with the Tigers, and Thursday will be his first meeting against the Royals, a division opponent Detroit plays 18 times a year.

The last regular-season start Willis made at any level was last June 14, when he walked eight Pittsburgh Pirates over 3 2/3 innings while giving up six hits. He went onto the disabled list and was sent to Triple-A Toledo, where he remained for the rest of the season. While the Tigers went down the final few weeks of a playoff race, Willis was home, left out from September callups.

The way Willis pitched in Spring Training, with potentially his career in the balance, convinced the Tigers that he was ready to return. He convinced his manager that his command woes are in the past.

"I'm anxious to see him," manager Jim Leyland said Tuesday. "I think he'll be fine. I don't think his control issue is an issue. It may be, but I'll be shocked if it is. I think it's just a matter of getting outs, if I go by what I saw all spring. He was around the plate all spring, and when he did [give up a] walk, it wasn't wild walks."

It wasn't just the command, but the velocity that convinced the Tigers that Willis was progressing. His fastball speed built a little bit each time he took mound after he failed to hit 90 mph in an early spring outing. He didn't always pound the zone when he threw hard, but by his final Spring Training tuneup against the Orioles, he was consistently in or near the strike zone while displaying a 93 mph fastball.

"I think that goes along with confidence," Leyland said.

There was very little wild about Willis at all lately. Even his quotes were somewhat subdued. Still, by no means is Willis trying to forget about the journey he made trying to get back here. He appreciates getting to this point, but now he wants to put in the work to stay. Whether they're hard-hit balls or strikeouts, he wants outs.

"I'm always blessed to be here, and I've been saying this since I got here," Willis said. "I'm very thankful. I'm thankful for the opportunity tomorrow, and I told [Leyland] thank you for believing in me, and he told me thank you for the work put in for spring in the offseason. Just being thankful.

"Sometimes when things are hard for you and then you struggle, it's a humbling experience, and you take a step back and you really appreciate how hard this game is and how blessed you are. There's only about 800 big leaguers, so even if you're the worst big leaguer, you're one of them. You look at it that way, and you work hard, and you try to better yourself."

Willis knows this could still be his last opportunity, and he has the appreciation for it, even if he has the focus going to try to make sure it isn't his last. There's still the fun nature of the little kid who was once a catcher in youth leagues, who was 5-foot-4 as he put it, until he hit a growth spurt in eighth grade.

"I just remember waking up one day and being bigger than my couch," he joked.

Willis still nimbly got in a good-natured jab when someone pointed out that he was the oldest member of the Majors' youngest rotation. As he pointed out, he's young enough that he once owned a Johnny Damon jersey from his one season with the A's.

Without question, Willis is going to have fun with this ride back through the big leagues. But he's also going to work to try to make it last as long as possible. It starts anew Thursday.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


"If you have to choose between power and speed and it often turns out you have to make that choice, you've got to go for speed." Source: TV Guide Interview (April 3, 1982)
-- Sparky Anderson
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PostSubject: Re: Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker   Dontrelle Willis Career Tracker Icon_minitimeTue Apr 13, 2010 11:35 pm

Comeback masks Willis' shaky start
Tigers starter struggles with command against Royals

By Jason Beck / MLB.com

04/13/10 7:31 PM ET

DETROIT -- Dontrelle Willis loved the Tigers' comeback Tuesday as much as anybody. He just wishes he could've taken the trailing part out of it.

Two outings into Willis' 2010 season in the Tigers' rotation, he hasn't shown signs of the meltdowns that marked the past two years. There haven't been ball-four, ball-eight, ball-12 moments that Willis himself referred to among the problems. His problem Tuesday was ball two -- 2-0 counts, or the 2-1 count on which Jose Guillen homered.

That in itself is progress for Willis, compared with last year. But as manager Jim Leyland pointed out, the progress needs to continue.

"I don't want to sit here and, because we won a game, get all excited that I think Dontrelle's home free," Leyland said. "I'm not saying that at all. He's got to get better, and we're going to put him out there. At some point, he's got to get better."

The Royals managed two runs in six innings against Willis last Thursday at Kansas City, but they seemingly had a better approach against him this time around and were more aggressive when they thought they had a chance to be. Willis didn't give up any extra-base hits last week, but surrendered three big ones among the nine hits he allowed in five innings.

Willis can live with the two solo home runs he surrendered, from David DeJesus in the third inning to Guillen in the fifth. It was a third-inning pitch to Alberto Callaspo for a two-run single that he'd like to have back. He had just struck out Rick Ankiel for the second out, eliminating a sacrifice-fly opportunity, before Callaspo got a fastball and grounded it through the left side.

Willis took the blame for it, essentially opting for a different pitch than called.

"Gerald [Laird] had the right call," Willis said, "and I just got mixed up. That happens, and that's the one I want back."

Both of his outings so far have seen him seemingly searching for command in the opening inning. He had a pair of first-inning walks once again, which combined with a walk to load the baes with one out.

Willis escaped that inning scoreless by striking out Ankiel and getting a flyout from Callaspo, and he fired back-to-back fastballs that hit 94 and 95 mph on the stadium radar gun in the process. But it cost him in pitch count. He threw 32 pitches in that first inning, then 29 in the third to get to 71. He finished with 104 pitches over five innings, the third straight Tiger to leave without recording an out in the sixth.

"I wouldn't call him really erratically wild wild," Leyland said, "but there were too many two-ball counts where he got behind hitters. And when you get behind hitters up here 2-0, they're going to hurt you, and that's happened."

The encouraging part for Willis in the pitch count is that he felt strong as he got to the 100-pitch mark, and that he avoided the big innings while he did it.

"Even in Florida, I was a slow starter," he said. "Once I get in trouble, I try to zone in. I want to be 1-2-3 to everybody, trust me. Sometimes it works out that way. I feel confident even when my back's against the wall that I'm one pitch away."

Leyland called Willis' peformance through two starts "OK." At no point, Leyland has emphasized, has he felt like the problems of last year have resurfaced. But it's still a work in progress.

"Sometimes you walk on eggs, because it's been a sensitive situation ... but I do think it's a possibility that he could be all right," Leyland said. "He's got plenty of movement. If he starts pitching 0-1, 1-1, 1-2 instead of 2-0, he gives himself a chance. His stuff at times is good, and other times it's just OK. It kind of fluctuates. But he does change speeds by design. I mean, he knows what he's doing. It's just a matter of commanding."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


"If you have to choose between power and speed and it often turns out you have to make that choice, you've got to go for speed." Source: TV Guide Interview (April 3, 1982)
-- Sparky Anderson
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