Willis lifted after one-plus innings
He had two unearned runs (but no walks) in a 30-pitch third inning before a single, walk and hit-by-pitch led to his removal in the fourth. He threw 43 pitches, 25 strikes, compared with the usual 30-pitch mark in the first outing for pitchers being stretched out as a starter. Kevin Millar had a hard-hit liner to left-center off a hanging breaking ball before Rod Barajas did a solid job of going the other way with a ball that was supposed to break down and in but flattened over the plate.
UPDATE @ 4:20pm: The focus from Willis and the Tigers was on repeating his delivery. He didn’t fall into that ball-four, ball-eight, ball-12 mode when he started giving up damage. They’re looking at this as a building block.
“I knew what I wanted to do today and I felt it,” Willis said. “I just didn’t get it done.”
Or as Willis said later, “I’m happy with everything but the line.”
Leyland said that Willis had good sync in his first inning of work, but not as good in his second.
As for the pitch count, pitching coach Rick Knapp said he had an informal 45-pitch limit in mind for Willis when he went out for that second inning. Knapp paid a visit two batters into the fourth to let Willis know that would be his final hitter and to focus on getting in two good fastballs low. He did that, but then hit Wayne Lydon with his 0-2 pitch.