Mailbag: What's on tap for Willis?
Beat reporter Jason Beck answers Tigers fans' questions
With Dontrelle Willis' control problems in Spring Training and then also to start the season, is there any chance that the Tigers will send him to Triple-A Toledo for a rehab assignment and keep him down there until he proves he can throw strikes? I've watched both of his starts, and he really appears to just be trying to guide a fastball over the plate, almost willing or praying for a strike. Also, how far below .500 do you think this team can fall and still recover? I know the saying goes you can't lose a pennant in April, but the team certainly looks like it's trying to prove otherwise this year.
-- Jeff S., Chicago
I'd expect to see Willis in Toledo for a rehab assignment soon. Manager Jim Leyland has mentioned more than once that he'd like to see Willis do that, and the lefty has said that he'd be willing to do it. And while it's true that he could use the time to make sure he's comfortable with his right knee and that he doesn't throw his delivery out of whack to compensate, there would also be a benefit for him to work on his fastball command.
As for the other question, I don't really have an answer other than to point out that Detroit's schedule gets very difficult for two or three weeks once this upcoming homestand ends. To expect the Tigers to erase their deficit right away just isn't going to happen.
This might seem a little out there and I know the guy is young, but what Rick Porcello did in Spring Training was outstanding. So what are the chances of having Porcello called up for a start at some point this year -- maybe even for some work out of the bullpen?
-- D.J., Plattsburgh, N.Y.
Can't totally rule it out, but I think it's still highly unlikely. He's pitching very well at Class A Lakeland, but it still comes down to the fact that he's 19 years old and a huge piece of the future.
What is the longest losing streak that a Tigers team has had and still made the playoffs? Also, on the flip side, what is the longest winning streak that a Tigers team has had and made the playoffs?
-- Steve M., Indianapolis
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According to research on baseball-reference.com, no Tigers team has lost more than six games in a row during the season and still made the playoffs. In fact, for half of Detroit's playoff ballclubs, their longest losing streak during the season was just four games. The longest winning streak by a playoff-bound Tigers team is 14, set by the 1909 American League champions and matched by the 1934 AL pennant winners.
Is there any way that the team will make room for Clete Thomas on the roster after Curtis Granderson comes back? With a surplus of expendable pitchers, it seems like the Tigers could at least try and keep him as a sub.
-- Ira H., Kalkaska, Mich.
Considering Thomas can play all three outfield spots, there's little doubt the Tigers could find room to keep him on the roster if they really wanted to. But the other question that needs to be considered is whether it's best for his development to stick around if he isn't going to get regular at-bats. And that's why the Tigers would probably want him playing every day in Toledo.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.