The veteran is scheduled to make his first start in three months as the Tigers open a three-game road set with the Texas Rangers on Monday night.
This will be just the fifth start of the season for Willis (0-1, 10.32 ERA), who has endured a nightmare first season in Detroit after coming over as part of a December trade from Florida that included slugger Miguel Cabrera.
The 2003 NL rookie of the year injured his knee during his second start this season, and was placed on the disabled list in mid-April before being activated on May 21. Willis, however, was sent down to the minors in June after struggling during two starts and a relief appearance.
Back in the majors after spending time at Class A Lakeland and Triple-A Toledo working on his control, Willis is back on the mound for the first time since allowing eight runs while walking five in 1 1-3 innings of an 8-2 loss to Cleveland on June 9.
“I’m really excited,” Willis told the Tigers’ official Web site. “It’s been a lot of hard work. I’m just going to go out there, have fun and do what I’ve been doing.”
The left-hander, who won at least 10 games in each of his five seasons with the Marlins, signed a three-year contract with Detroit (70-78) and could be on display for the club to see whether he’ll remain in their future plans. Detroit manager Jim Leyland, though, does not want to put any pressure on Willis.
“I don’t want to make a big hoopla out of Dontrelle pitching,” Leyland said. “I think that would be the worst thing I could do. I think the fact of the matter is he’s ready to go out and compete. He’s not being judged negatively or positively.”
Willis allowed four earned runs in 4 2-3 innings while losing his only previous start to Texas in 2004. He’ll try to help the Tigers avoid a fifth consecutive loss after being swept in a doubleheader at Chicago, 4-2 and 11-7 on Sunday.
Former White Sox outfielder Magglio Ordonez went 4-for-8 on the day with a two-run homer in the first game for Detroit, which rallied to tie the nightcap after Marcus Thames’ grand slam highlighted a five-run eighth inning.
Ordonez is a career .394 hitter with four home runs and 25 RBIs in 35 games in Texas.
Though the Tigers have muddled through a disappointing season, they are 5-1 against the Rangers (73-77) this season and took two of three at Texas from Aug. 18-20.
The Rangers fell 7-4 at Oakland on Sunday for their second straight loss and a split of their series with the Athletics. Nelson Cruz had three hits, including two doubles, and drove in all the runs for Texas. He’s batting .328 (22-for-67) with 17 RBIs in 19 game since being called up from the minors.
Josh Hamilton went 0-for-5 on Sunday, but is batting .422 (19-for-45) in September and .304 during his All-Star season.
Texas’ Brandon McCarthy (1-1, 4.22) makes his fifth start since missing 4 1/2 months because of an arm injury. He looks to bounce back after allowing six runs and seven hits in 5 1-3 innings of a 7-2 loss to Boston on Sunday.
“I couldn’t throw my curveball and changeups for strikes and my fastball was below average,’ McCarthy told the Rangers’ official Web site. “Stuff-wise, it was a bad day.”
The right-hander is 0-2 with a 6.08 ERA in three career starts versus Detroit.
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