Detroit Tigers News

Another Exciting Adventure with Dontrelle

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With the Red Wings playing game six of the Stanley Cup Finals last night, I had planned on a nice evening watching hockey. Unfortunately, I cannot turn away from a Dontrelle Willis start. This is must-watch stuff here. For all the people that complain about how boring baseball is, I say “just go watch D-Train pitch sometime”. Each pitch that he throws is a new and exciting adventure, which is not necessarily what you ideally would want from a guy pitching for your club. But boring, he is not.

His outing can best be summed up by a post made by Kurt from Mack Avenue Tigers, on the gamethread at Bless You Boys.

"typical willis startwhich is an improvement over last time.scares the hell out of you, pisses you off a few times, scares the hell out of you a bit more and does uhm, OK I guess.Mack Avenue Tigersby MackAveKurt on Jun 9, 2009 9:52 PM EDT"

Kurt, I couldn’t agree more.

The bottom of the fifth inning yesterday was one of the more intense frames of baseball I have ever watched. Willis was obviously not completely healthy after hurting his knee in the first, and was visibly limping. But he battled through the pain, and battled his command issues to finally retire A.J. Pierzynski with the bases loaded by making a diving sprawl on a slow roller just past the mound, then threw wildly to first from his belly, only to see Miguel Cabrera preserve the tie with a great stretch to stay on the bag.

When it was over, I could finally exhale.

Dontrelle Willis is exhausting to watch. He began his evening with six consecutive balls. He allowed the White Sox first run on a wild pitch. Over his five innings of work, he allowed 10 baserunners (five walks, five hits). He also allowed a game-tying two-run homer to Brain Anderson. As he has in the past, he also had good moments. His fastball reached 94 MPH, he consistently got ground balls, and was able to limit the damage to three runs over his start.

But he battled all day. Trainer Kevin Rand twice went to the mound to check on Willis, once after the play in the first when Willis hurt himself covering home, and once in the second. Twice Willis persuaded Rand and Jim Leyland to leave him in. On the second trip, I could read his lips when he said “There is no way I’m coming out of this game”.

Willis has a long way to go. But unlike Jeremy Bonderman right now, his stuff is good enough. And he competes on every pitch, even if sometimes just with himself. Consistency has got to improve, though. Just as Dontrelle refused to leave the game last night, he needs to refuse to yield to his demons, and refuse to give up his fight to keep a starting job.

His determination may be the only thing keeping him in the major leagues right now.

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