The 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.
Oft-injured pitcher Josh Johnson is retiring from baseball, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick is reporting.
Johnson, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2013. The right-hander underwent his third Tommy John surgery in September 2015 but wasn’t able to bounce back.
Johnson spent most of his career with the Marlins, but also pitched for the Blue Jays in the big leagues, as well as the Padres in the minors. He retires with a career 3.40 ERA, 915 strikeouts across 998 innings in the majors, and two All-Star nominations. Johnson led the National League with a 2.30 ERA in 2010, finishing fifth in NL Cy Young Award balloting. One wonders what he could have accomplished if he was able to stay healthy.
The Angels are nearing a multi-year deal with free agent third baseman Luis Valbuena, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. It’s believed to be a two-year contract with a third-year option.
Valbuena, 31, hit .260/.357/.459 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI in 342 plate appearances in 2016. He missed most of the second half with a hamstring injury, for which he underwent surgery in late August.
Valbuena has played a majority of his career at third base, but also has extensive experience at second base and has racked up innings at first base and shortstop as well. He won’t play every day for the Angels, as Yunel Escobar lays claim to third base and C.J. Cron first base, but he will give them flexibility and a left-handed bat off the bench.