Dontrelle Willis admits to 'serious lack of confidence'

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Dontrelle Willis headshot.jpgThe Tigers’ medical staff called it an anxiety disorder, but Dontrelle Willis told Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press that was he suffering from something he calls a “serious lack of confidence.” Whatever the diagnosis, Willis was so unsure of his ability to find the strike zone that there were occasions last season when he was afraid of taking the mound.

Willis signed a three-year, $28 million contract with the Tigers before even throwing his first pitch with the team, but is just 1-6 with an 8.27 ERA and 35/63 K/BB ratio over the past two seasons. He’s confident that his time at the Athletes’ Performance Institute in Arizona this off-season will at least prepare him with a fresh mental approach on the mound.

“I guess you can only beat yourself down so much. My mind-set was in
the wrong place (last year). This is a backyard game. If you’re not
having fun, then what’s the point? I think you’re going to see a
different person this year.”

With Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello, Max Scherzer and Jeremy Bonderman virtually assured of the first four spots in the rotation, Willis is expected to battle it out with Nate Robertson and Armando Galarraga to be the team’s No. 5 starter. Nobody expects him to regain his 2005 form, but seeing his smile back on a major league mound every fifth day would be a nice step forward.

Josh Hamilton has knee surgery, out 2-3 months

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 24:  Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers in the dugout before a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 24, 2015 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)
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Josh Hamilton is not and never was a key part of the 2017 Texas Rangers plans. He was in camp and under contract and had at least a chance to make the team, but the Rangers fate as a ballclub did not depend on him. It would merely be nice for them if he revealed that he had a bit left in the tank and if he could, like a lot of other superstars in baseball history, give them one last season of decent production in part time play as a matter of depth and flexibility.

As such, this development is more unfortunate for Josh Hamilton and those who root for him than it is for the Rangers as a club, but it is unfortunate all the same:

That’s the fourth surgery he’s had on that knee in less than two years and the 11th knee surgery he’s had overall in his baseball career. It’s sad to say but safe to say that Hamilton’s days in baseball are numbered if not over completely. At some point an athlete’s body can only take so much.

Reid Brignac is trying to become a switch hitter

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Reid Brignac #4 of the Atlanta Braves poses on photo day at Champion Stadium on February 26, 2016 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.

I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.

I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.

As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.

There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.