February 24th, 2009

More encouragement for Dontrelle

OK, by now, I’m guessing you’re tired of reading all this talk about live batting practice sessions and pitchers feeling encouraged. But I really think Dontrelle Willis’ second live BP session is worth mentioning.

Three days ago, Willis was talking about pounding the strike zone making hitters put the ball in play, and he still does. Tuesday, however, was more about Willis working the strike zone with his secondary pitches, especially in and out. He made a point to throw some changeups and breaking balls to every hitter he faced, if only to see how each hitter reacted. And he did a good job of keeping those pitches down in the strike zone. If he missed his spot, it was usually outside, where he’s less likely to give up damage.

Talking with Willis afterwards, he wasn’t gushing so much as he seemed quietly confident. He could leave the gushing to Jim Leyland.

“He looked really good,” Leyland said. “Good life, good movement, throwing strikes. He looks tremendous right now, to be honest.

Added Ramon Santiago: “Everything was low with movement. The sinker was low. And he threw where he wanted.”

Willis is still talking about pounding the zone and putting ground balls in play. And keep in mind, as a left-handed pitcher, he stands to benefit the most from

Like Willis, Jeremy Bonderman seemed to be focused on his secondary stuff in his session today. He threw what seemed like a heavy dose of changeups and breaking balls. Ryan Perry came out throwing hard again, but he seemed to have a better command of his pitches compared to a few days ago. He suggested he was a little less jumpy, though still a little nervous out there.

Other notes …

  • As expected, Leyland said he’ll use Jeff Larish some in the outfield (both corner spots) as the games get going. And while Leyland didn’t give any indication on Larish’s chances for making the squad, Leyland made a point to say, “I would not be afraid to have him on my team. I think he’s good. I think he’s a talented guy.” Larish said last week that while he didn’t know whether he’d play the outfield here, he did play the outfield some at Arizona State, so it won’t be a new position to him.
  • Who’s the player Leyland is most curious to see play in games? That would be outfield Casper Wells, who can play all three outfield positions despite being a big guy. He’s still a long, long shot to make the club, Leyland said, but he just wants to see what he can do out there.
  • Catchers Gerald Laird and Matt Treanor met with pitching coach Rick Knapp this morning to go over signals and calling games.
  • Final World Baseball Classic rosters are officially announced in a few hours, but the Venezuelan roster is already out. Armando Galarraga is in the rotation, while Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera and Carlos Guillen are all supposedly taking part. Fernando Rodney says he’s ready to pitch for the Dominican team, though he hasn’t heard the final roster.
  • Pitching schedule for the Tigers tomorrow against the Braves: Justin Verlander, Zach Miner, Bobby Seay, Brandon Lyon, Eddie Bonine, Fu-Te Ni and Kyle Bloom.
  • Jair Jurrjens is scheduled to pitch for Atlanta tomorrow.
  • Now is as good a time as many to refer to the Tigers Spring Training radio schedule. It includes 13 games, almost all of them on the weekends. However, Wednesday’s game is also on the radio. Click here for a full schedule.
  • The practical joke squad struck outfielder Clete Thomas today while he was working out. Players and coaches returned from workouts this morning to find Thomas’ cowboy boots hanging from the ceiling of the clubhouse.