Results tagged ‘ Dontrelle Willis ’
The Tigers rotation situation has been solved. Dontrelle Willis will make his next start Sunday at Pittsburgh, while Jeremy Bonderman is headed for the bullpen for now.
The move brings Detroit’s starting ranks from six pitchers to five after Monday’s day-night doubleheader. What it means for Bonderman’s return from shoulder problems remains to be seen.
Willis is winless in his last four starts with an 8.53 ERA and 16 walks over 19 innings since holding the Rangers scoreless over 6 1/3 innings May 19 at Comerica Park. However, Willis has competed on the mound to make his stuff work, a facet possibly never more evident than his outing Tuesday against the White Sox.
Despite five walks and five hits over as many innings, Willis held Chicago to three runs, leaving with a tie score before Detroit eventually pulled it out. He seemingly injured his right knee sliding into home plate for a tag attempt, then made his final out with a diving stop on the first-base side of the mound and a throw to first from the ground.
Once Willis’ knee was fine Wednesday, manager Jim Leyland’s decision was made.
“I think Dontrelle certainly deserves to go out there Sunday,” Leyland said. “I really like the way he competed.”
Willis’ outing came a day after Bonderman made his first Major League start in a year, taking a loss against the White Sox with six runs on eight hits over four-plus innings. Three of those hits were home runs.
It has been a slow process for Bonderman to regain his velocity after surgery last summer to correct a blood vessel restriction in his shoulder, and his fastball topped out at 91 mph Monday. He spent his Minor League rehab assignment trying to learn how to focus more on changing speeds and locating rather than being a power pitcher like in the past. That process will continue from somewhere other than Detroit’s rotation.
Bonderman was in the bullpen Tuesday night with a shortened Tigers relief staff, but Leyland said nothing about Bonderman’s role going past this series.
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.
Dontrelle Willis said the biggest change to come out of his stint on the disabled list is the ability to not worry about perception anymore. That includes not only his pitching, but the perception of his diagnosis with anxiety disorder. He has his thoughts, and others have theirs.
“I’m a guy that shoots from the hip. I was just playing bad,” Willis said. “And that happens. I’m not a doctor. I’m not trying to be a doctor. I’m trying to be a baseball player. I’m not getting into that.
“Even when I went on the DL, I felt fine. You can ask anybody in here. I’m not a depressed guy. Maybe I’m hard on myself, but I wouldn’t have gotten here if I wasn’t. But there’s a fine line to knowing what you can control and what you can’t control. As far as how I feel, I don’t have a condition. My condition is me going out there and playing baseball and having fun. If God doesn’t want me to do it, then I’ll find something else to do.”
Clearly, he wants to get back to baseball instead of talking about his health. Still, he was able to make light of it when he talked about what his family thought.
“The whole situation, to be honest, they were just laughing,” he said. “They were saying, ‘Now the whole world thinks you’re crazy, but we all knew you were.’”
As for his pitching, Willis said he has been able to take his games one pitch at a time. He wasn’t thinking ahead too much, he said, but he was worrying about his past pitches when he couldn’t do anything about them.
Asked if there was a specific pitch or situation when he knew he was better, he cited the home runs he allowed.
“Every time I got a ball hit hard for a home run,” Willis said, “[I was] coming back and focused to continue to work and continue to push forward. You can’t give up.”
That, he said, was the big thing he got out of talking with coaches and doctors and instructors: He has been able to shake off some of the pressure of being in his shoes.
“Everybody says they want to have fun, but when you struggle, it’s not as fun as when you’re playing well, obviously,” Willis said. “Now my mindset is just simplified, going out there and really just thinking about myself and not really caring about anybody else as far as what they think. I’m not going out there and, excuse me, pitching with a gun to my head instead of just going out there and having fun. You make a pitch, and if you don’t [execute] it, go on to the next one.”
Talking with him, there’s very much a sense that he’s at peace with his situation, whichever way his comeback goes. If he’s going out, he’s going out trying to enjoy the game.
“Whatever the outcome may be, I’m going to really go out here and enjoy this game of baseball,” he said. “Only a few of us to get to play until we’re 35, and I’m not Tom Glavine, so I’m going to enjoy this.”
Dontrelle Willis won’t be activated until his start next Wednesday at Minnesota, but he rejoined the team Friday at Progressive Field, where he’ll work on the side with pitching coach Rick Knapp until his assignment. He talked a little bit about his pitching, a little bit about the social anxiety disorder, and a bit more about his approach coming into this situation. Look for more on the blog this evening. For now, here are the lineups:
- Granderson, CF
- Polanco, 2B
- Thomas, RF
- Cabrera, 1B
- Ordonez, DH
- Inge, 3B
- Raburn, LF
- Everett, SS
- Sardinha, C
- Grady Sizemore, CF
- Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
- Victor Martinez, 1B
- Shin-Soo Choo, RF
- Mark DeRosa, 3B
- David Dellucci, DH
- Ben Francisco, LF
- Luis Valbuena, 2B
- Kelly Shoppach, C
P: Cliff Lee
Dontrelle Willis will make at least one more start with Triple-A Toledo. The rehabbing starter is scheduled to take the mound for the Mud Hens on Wednesday at Pawtucket as the team’s road trip continues.
It’ll be the first repeat start of his rehab assignment. He made one outing each at Class A Lakeland and Double-A Erie before pitching five innings of three-run ball for Toledo on Friday at Lehigh Valley, giving up seven hits but recovering after walking his first two batters of the game.
No word yet on plans after that outing. If the Tigers want, they could have him make two more turns in the rotation before his rehab assignment expires May 20. From a pitch count standpint, he’s already stretched out past 100 after last outing.
Willis opened the season on the 15-day disabled list after being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. He was treated while continuing his work.
He just completed his outing for Triple-A Toledo Friday night at Lehigh Valley, where he allowed three runs on seven hits over five innings with two walks, four strikeouts, a hit batter and a wild pitch. Considering both walks were to the first two batters Dontrelle faced, he could’ve been in huge trouble. By contrast, three of his four strikeouts ended innings, including back-to-back strikeouts to end the first with neither walk coming around to score.
Willis threw 102 pitches, 60 for strikes. According to Jim Weber’s call on Hens radio, the radar gun at the ballpark was a little shaky, so it was hard to get an accurate reading on how hard Dontrelle was throwing.
The Tigers transferred Dontrelle Willis’ rehab assignment to Toledo Monday, setting him up to start for the Mud Hens on Friday at Lehigh Valley.
Willis last pitched Sunday for Double-A Erie, where he gave up two runs on three hits in six innings Sunday with three walks and six strikeouts. Before that, he pitched seven innings for Class A Lakeland last Tuesday to start off his rehab assignment.
It’ll mark Willis’ third start with the Mud Hens in his two seasons with the Tigers. He made three starts there during a rehab assignment last May while on the disabled list with a hyperextended right knee, then came back to the Mud Hens in August during his summer stint in the Minors before rejoining the Tigers that September.
As of now, it isn’t clear yet how long Willis’ stint with the Hens might be. The Tigers can run his rehab assignment for up to 30 days, which would take him to May 20, but his workload has already stretched him out in terms of pitch counts.
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.
I’m off this weekend, going back to work during the Angels series next week, but I figured I’d give a quick heads-up about the decisions on two rehab stints, courtesy of MLB.com’s Doug Miller in Seattle:
- Joel Zumaya is going to join Triple-A Toledo for a stint beginning with an appearance Saturday. Not a whole lot of details were available beyond that, but based on what Zumaya said was the plan at the end of Spring Training, he wasn’t going to be headed out of Lakeland until the final step of his rehab, which would be to see him a little against tougher competition and more importantly to see how his arm handles pitching on back-to-back days. The Mud Hens are in Columbus Saturday and Sunday with an off-day scheduled for Monday before they’re back in Toledo for a homestand starting Tuesday.
- Dontrelle Willis, meanwhile, will be starting a rehab stint for Class A Lakeland on Tuesday. Leyland said he pitched in an extended Spring Training game on Thursday and, according to reports, “looked fantastic,” with 48 of his 62 pitches for strikes and a fastball at 90-92. “They were legitimate strikes, too,” Leyland told reporters. “The younger kids weren’t swinging at balls outside the strike zone.” To answer what I anticipate the next question might be, Dontrelle can pitch for up to 30 days in a Minor League stint before the Tigers have to make a move of some sort.
Enjoy the weekend. Hopefully you can get out and enjoy this weather if you’re in the area before the rain arrives for Sunday.
While the Tigers took batting practice this morning, pitching coach Rick Knapp was at work in the bullpen. First up was Dontrelle Willis, who was working on some mechanics in the bullpen after he went back to his old leg kick in Thursday night’s game against the Braves. Knapp and Willis are basically going to work off of that old delivery now in the idea of going with what’s comfortable in hopes that it helps him.
“We’re at the point where we’re trying pretty much anything,” manager Jim Leyland said. “I think that’s pretty simple.”
Bonderman was a matter of shoring up some of his mechanics, which he said were all over the place at times Thursday, presumably from the rust. Leyland sounded a much less tentative tone about Bonderman Friday morning.
“I think if he stays healthy, he’ll be ready to pitch Opening Day, or the fifth day, or whichever day,” Leyland said.
- Santiago, SS
- Polanco, 2B
- Sheffield, DH
- Thames, RF
- Kelly, 1B
- Larish, 3B
- Ramirez, LF
- Gomez, CF
- Treanor, C
- Lastings Milledge, CF
- Nick Johnson, 1B
- Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
- Elijah Dukes, LF
- Austin Kearns, RF
- Javier Valentin, C
- Wily Mo Pena, DH
- Alex Cintron, 2B
- Alberto Gonzalez, SS