Willis set to pitch for Class A Lakeland
Left-hander working on control issues in Minor Leagues
DETROIT -- Dontrelle Willis' road back to the Major Leagues begins Sunday night at Class A Lakeland.
The struggling left-hander will pitch two innings against Daytona at Joker Marchant Stadium. The outing will mark the first time Willis has thrown in a game since the Tigers optioned one of their key offseason acquisitions to the Minor Leagues after he allowed eight runs in 1 1/3 innings on June 9.
The Detroit organization will take its time with Willis. The club has set no timetable for his return.
"Our objective is to get Dontrelle back to being Dontrelle," Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said on June 9. "We don't want to put a timeframe on this; we want to get it right. The arm strength is still there, on occasion. The breaking ball is still there. But we want to get him back to being comfortable throwing strikes."
At Lakeland, Willis has worked with the organization's pitching coordinator, Jon Matlack, and Lakeland pitching coach Joe Coleman to iron out severe control problems that have plagued the 2005 NL Cy Young Award runner-up since Spring Training.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland said he will monitor the reports from Lakeland.
"We'll see what happens," Leyland said Sunday afternoon. "That's far, far down the road."
Willis came to Detroit in the December trade that also included Miguel Cabrera. The Tigers then signed him to a three-year, $29 million contract. Willis went on the disabled list for the first time in his career in April after hyperextending his right knee.
He made five appearances this season, with four starts and the first regular-season relief outing of his career. Willis pitched a total of 11 1/3 innings, during which he walked 21 batters.
Scott McNeish is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.