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.