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.
Horrible news: Miami Marlins ace starting pitcher Jose Fernandez was killed in a boat crash off of Miami Beach late last night.
No details have been released yet, apart from the fact that Fernandez was one of three people killed. The Marlins have issued a statement confirming Fernandez’s death, stating that the organization is devastated and that their thoughts and prayers were with Fernandez’s family. Today’s Marlins game against the Braves has been canceled.
Fernandez was only 24 years old. Though only in his fourth season in the majors, he was easily one of the best and most exciting pitchers in the game. In his four seasons he won 38 games and posted a fantastic ERA of 2.58 while striking out 11.2 batters per nine innings. He was an electric presence on the mound and was poised to become one of baseball’s most highly-paid and entertaining superstars.
His baseball exploits seem trivial now, however. His loss at such a young age, tragic. Our thoughts today are with Fernandez’s family, the Marlins organization and those who knew and loved him.
Another day, another division title in the bag. The Nationals coasted to a 6-1 finish over the Pirates on Saturday evening; coupled with a Mets’ loss later that night, the NL East title was theirs for the third time since 2012.
The Nationals put up a three-spot in the first and fourth innings, scoring five of six runs on productive outs while Washington starter Joe Ross tossed 2 ⅔ innings of one-run ball in his second start off the disabled list. Prior to the game, manager Dusty Baker seemed reluctant to delegate a set number of pitches to the right-hander, opting instead to base Ross’s workload on his performance.
Washington’s bullpen carried the team the rest of the way, combining for 6 ⅓ scoreless frames to preserve their five-run lead. When Anthony Rendon snared a liner from Andrew McCutchen to end the game, all eyes turned to the clubhouse TVs:
Murphy had sufficient cause for worry: After trailing 10-0 through four innings, the Mets returned with an eight-run drive that culminated with Jay Bruce‘s solo shot in the ninth inning. Had Bruce hit the home run after Philadelphia closer Michael Mariot issued a pair of walks, and not before, the Mets would have edged out the Phillies, 11-10. Instead, their late-game rally ended on a fastball down the middle, and the Phillies’ 70th victory confirmed the Nats’ place atop the NL East.
While Max Scherzer donned his two-toned goggles and Bryce Harper braved the champagne showers in U.S. Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky’s swim cap, Baker was already thinking about Sunday’s start. Against the Pirates’ Tyler Glasnow, Baker announced his plans to start 24-year-old A.J. Cole, whose seven starts have yielded a 4.68 ERA and 0.2 fWAR in 32 ⅔ innings this year.
Cole hasn’t displayed the sharpest stuff in his sophomore season, touting a high 3.03 BB/9 and 1.93 HR/9, but with the division locked down and the Cubs in sole possession of home field advantage through the NLCS, the Nationals have bigger concerns as the playoffs draw near.