Dontrelle Willis, on handing out eight walks while allowing six runs in 3.2 innings Sunday:
Honestly, today was just unacceptable. I can’t put my team in that
type of hole. Can’t beat anybody pitching like that. It’s very tough to
pitch when you’re in a jam every inning. I’m going to have to finally
do something, or somebody else is going to have to go out there to help
this ball club win. Because I just can’t go out there and do that. You
can’t defend a walk.
I appreciate Skip giving me the leeway to go out there every time.
Every time he gives me leeway, I go one step forward and two steps
back. It’s just unacceptable, and I’m disappointed in myself the way I
played today. Just throwing the ball and making them hit it. I don’t
care what corner it is. Just go out there and establish that I can
throw the ball over the plate.
Struggling to throw strikes is nothing new for Willis, but he initially
showed some signs of potentially getting over the problem after
rejoining the Tigers’ rotation last month. However, over his last three
starts Willis has walked 18 batters in 11 innings and is sadly looking
like as big a mess as ever.
Jeremy Bonderman was quickly sent back to the disabled list
last week after struggling in his season debut, but as Willis notes in
the above quote manager Jim Leyland has been very patient with him. So
far, at least. While the Tigers are up three games in what is a weak AL
Central, they can’t afford to keep trotting Willis out there to implode
every fifth day and he might be one more rough outing from being
replaced by Zach Miner.
Rick Ankiel blazed a trail for young left-handed pitchers who
suddenly can’t throw strikes by becoming a full-time outfielder and some people are calling for
the Tigers to make the same switch with Willis. Of course, while
Willis’ career .233/.279/.358 line is really good for a pitcher it’s
also really bad for an outfielder.
Plus, even if Willis were to follow in Ankiel’s footsteps by
significantly boosting his offense after becoming a full-time hitter
the Ankiel path also included multiple seasons between pitching in the
majors and hitting in the majors. Ankiel had his Willis-like struggles
in 2001 with another brief stint as a pitcher in 2004 and became a
starting outfielder in 2007. Willis is already 27 years old, so he
doesn’t really have that kind of time.