Willis, Zumaya solid in rehab outings
Southpaw tosses seven innings; righty strong in one frame
ANAHEIM -- While Dontrelle Willis had an encouraging start to his Minor League rehab stint Tuesday night, Joel Zumaya had a good start to what he hopes will be the final step toward getting back to Detroit.
Willis, making his first start since going on the 15-day disabled list to open the season, needed just 75 pitches, 58 of them strikes, to throw seven innings for Class A Lakeland against Clearwater. He gave up four runs, two earned, on seven hits with two strikeouts.
Less than an hour after Willis was finished in Lakeland, Zumaya took the mound for the eighth inning at Triple-A Toledo, where he retired the top of the Indianapolis lineup in order on two strikeouts and a groundout. His fastball registered consistently in the mid-90s, according to the Mud Hens radio broadcast.
The outing is expected to be the first of back-to-back days on the mound for Zumaya, who pitched two scoreless innings for the Hens on Saturday at Columbus. The Tigers will re-evaluate Zumaya after that. He opened the season on the 15-day disabled list after lingering right shoulder soreness and then a cramp between his throwing shoulder and neck sidelined him for most of March.
For Willis, Tuesday's outing was more than a stop on his way to Double-A Erie, where he'll start again on Sunday. It was a test of his control and whether he can consistently pound the strike zone without getting damaged. For the most part, he seemed to pass. Not only did he not walk a hitter, he reached only one three-ball count.
Willis retired the first nine batters he faced before two singles turned into a Clearwater run in the fourth. Three more singles led to a run in the fifth before Matthew Rizzotti hit a two-run homer in the sixth, the only extra-base hit off Willis.
According to the organizational report, Willis' fastball topped out at 92 mph, with consistent velocity at 88-89 mph.
Manager Jim Leyland said he talked to Willis Monday to see how he was feeling.
"He sounded pretty low-key and ready to go," said Leyland, who also called Zumaya and Jeremy Bonderman.
Zumaya's inning was efficient in its own right. Though he threw first-pitch balls to all three of his batters, he threw nine of his 15 pitches for strikes, including a called third strike on Pirates prospect Andrew McCutchen to lead off the eighth inning before Brian Bixler went down swinging. He recovered from a 2-0 count to get a groundout from Jeff Salazar.
Zumaya will get a new opponent Wednesday night when the Louisville Bats come to town. Whether the Tigers get their reliever back soon after that remains to be seen.
Bonderman, meanwhile, threw a simulated game at Lakeland on Tuesday, according to Leyland. As for his mood, Leyland said, "He wasn't very happy with himself," though his shoulder felt fine.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.