Willis will take the mound Saturday when the Detroit Tigers continue a four-game series in Texas.
Detroit (9-8) acquired Willis (0-1, 4.24 ERA) in a trade with Florida in December 2007, but his time with the Tigers has been a major disappointment. The former All-Star and NL Rookie of the Year has only one win in 17 total starts for Detroit, largely due to struggling with injuries and an anxiety disorder that limited him to seven starts in 2009.
That lone win came May 19, when Willis threw 6 1-3 scoreless innings against Texas. Lately, though, the left-hander has shown signs he may be recapturing his old form. He limited the Angels to two runs and four hits over six innings Monday in Anaheim, but got saddled with a hard-luck 2-0 loss.
Detroit has scored only one run for Willis in his three starts this season.
“I feel solid. I feel like I’ve put together some quality innings together,” Willis said. “Being in the back of the rotation, I just want to go out there eat up innings, take the burden off our bullpen and take some of the pressure off the guys at the top of the rotation so that they don’t feel like they have to go seven, eight, nine every time out.”
Willis will try to help the Tigers bounce back from a 5-4 loss to the Rangers (7-9) in Friday’s series opener. Elvis Andrus(notes) drove in the winning run with a one-out single in the ninth after the Tigers had taken the lead in the top of the inning on Magglio Ordonez’s(notes) two-run single.
Fittingly, Andrus’ game-winning hit coincided with a Rangers weekend promotion centered around Elvis Presley.
“What a finish to a nice game,” said manager Ron Washington, whose club has won two straight following a six-game losing streak. “Elvis Weekend, and he’s the one that gets the hit for us. Those guys in that clubhouse, they don’t quit. They keep trying.”
The Rangers will hand the ball to their opening-day starter Scott Feldman(notes) (1-1, 4.41), who struggled against the New York Yankees last Saturday, giving up four runs and seven hits in 2 1-3 innings of a 7-3 loss.
Feldman was originally scheduled to start Friday night, but Texas gave him the day off to recover from a stomach virus.
The right-hander is 0-1 with an 8.82 ERA in seven career games - two starts - against the Tigers. The loss came at home July 29, when he was tagged for six runs and 10 hits in 2 1-3 innings of a 13-5 defeat.
Detroit placed Carlos Guillen(notes) on the 15-day disabled list Friday with a strained left hamstring. While Feldman won’t have to worry about facing Guillen, he will have to pitch to Miguel Cabrera(notes), who drove in another two runs Friday to give him a major league-leading 21 RBIs for the season.