Willis, Garcia throw simulated games
Tigers unsure of when pitchers could see live action
DETROIT -- Dontrelle Willis went into his usual high leg kick, unfurled to home plate and fired toward the mitt. Bullpen catcher Scott Pickens held it on the inside corner to get the called strike -- from himself, to the roar of nobody in the crowd.
It can be difficult to take a whole lot out of a second simulated game, but for Willis and Freddy Garcia, there were a couple more signs of encouragement Monday. Both of them felt good about their command as they worked on locating certain pitches, and both took a positive out of their ability to change speeds.
"They both were good," manager Jim Leyland said. "They were both over the plate."
Neither has an idea what comes after this. That will come after a discussion between Leyland, president/general manager Dave Dombrowski and other club officials.
Willis, working his way back after being optioned to the Minor Leagues in June to work out control problems, threw about 82 pitches over four innings against a mini-lineup of Matt Joyce, Ryan Raburn, Mike Hessman, Jeff Larish and Ramon Santiago. Willis struck out five while giving up a pair of home runs. Hessman reached for a diving sinker and got enough of it to line an opposite-field shot to right field in the opening inning before Willis hung a slider to Raburn in his final inning of work.
Those two shots and a single was the only damage Willis gave up. More important to him were the spots he was hitting with his fastballs, offspeed pitches, sinkers and sliders.
"I had good command, threw some good changeups today," Willis said. "Last time I didn't throw too many good changeups. It was good work today."
The work on the inside part of the plate was particularly encouraging for him. It's a change to him from what he has done in the past, at least from one side of the plate.
"It's good," Willis said, "because in the course of a year, you can't attack a guy the same way. So you have to do things not outside the box, but do things in different ways. I've never really thrown inside to lefties before like that, just tried to throw sinkers down."
Garcia, signed last month to a Minor League contract while he works his way back from shoulder surgery from last summer, threw about 67 pitches, right around the mark the Tigers wanted for his outing. He put his breaking ball in storage after he was happy with its results in his previous simulated outing last week, opting instead for a heavy dose of fastballs and changeups.
"It was good. It feels better than last time," Garcia said.
Leyland has discussed the possibility of pitching Willis in a game, whether in a starting or relief role. The left-hander is already on the active roster, so no move would be necessary. Garcia, on the other hand, will have to have his contract purchased from Triple-A Toledo.
If and when they pitch, it won't be before the middle of the week if it's in a starting role. The rotation is already set for the rest of the week, and Leyland said Monday afternoon that Armando Galarraga would likely start next Monday in Arlington.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.