Though Dontrelle Willis’(notes) previous two seasons in Detroit were nothing short of miserable, the former All-Star is getting another chance to prove he deserves a spot in the Tigers’ starting rotation.
Willis takes the mound for the first time since June when the visiting Tigers conclude their series with the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday afternoon.
A former rookie of the year and World Series champion who won 22 games in 2005, Willis is 1-6 with an 8.27 ERA in 15 appearances since being acquired by the Tigers in a trade with Florida in December 2007. His time in Detroit has been marred by injuries, pitch command troubles and an anxiety disorder that cut short his 2009 season after seven starts.
“We have a lot of confidence in him coming back,” team president and general manager Dave Dombrowski told the Tigers’ official Web site. “I think he’s done a lot. He’s pitched well this spring. I don’t know what else (he could do).”
The 28-year-old left-hander went 2-0 with a 3.22 ERA in eight spring training appearances.
“I think I put together a great spring,” said Willis, who will make his first career appearance against Kansas City. “I’m not done though. I’m not content. I want to continue to work hard. I’m just thankful. I’m very thankful.”
Willis looks to help the Tigers bounce back from a 3-2, 11-inning loss to the Royals on Wednesday. After Detroit rallied from a three-run deficit to win 8-4 in Monday’s opener, Kansas City scored twice in the 11th to even the series.
Miguel Cabrera(notes) was one of four Tigers with two hits, including a game-tying homer with two outs in the ninth. Cabrera is 4 for 9 with three RBIs in two games. He’s batting .370 with seven home runs and 24 RBIs in 23 career games at Kauffman Stadium.
Bannister returns to the mound after he missed the final month of the 2009 season because of shoulder fatigue.
Though Bannister went 7-12 with a 4.73 ERA in 26 starts last season, the right-hander has fared well against Detroit in his career. He’s 4-2 with a 2.09 ERA, but hasn’t faced the Tigers since 2008.
After missing the opener due to an irritation to the right side of his body his suffered during spring training, Kansas City’s Alberto Callaspo(notes) hit a game-tying homer in the 11th. Willie Bloomquist(notes) then scored the winning run on a throwing error off a double from Rick Ankiel(notes).
“It showed the resilience of our team,” Royals second baseman Chris Getz(notes) said. “felt like we were in the driver’s seat Monday and let it slip away, and then we were in the driver’s seat again (Wednesday). If we had let it slip away, we would have bounced back, but it would have been more difficult.”
Callaspo, who hit .300 in a career-high 155 games last season, is batting .340 with five of his 12 career homers against Detroit.