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 2010 ST PITCHING NEWS

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PostSubject: 2010 ST PITCHING NEWS   Sun Mar 14, 2010 6:54 pm

Willis sets tone on good day for pitchers
Lefty turns in strong start; Bonderman gets key outs

By Jason Beck / MLB.com

03/13/10 6:25 PM EST

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Dontrelle Willis said he felt terrible on the mound, pitched OK despite it, and felt great about it once he was done. Nate Robertson felt his fastball had new life once he got a swing and a miss on a pitch over the plate and then a nasty slider to strike out Derek Jeter. Jeremy Bonderman felt like he was finally just pitching rather than thinking on the mound.

A day after Tigers manager Jim Leyland told all his pitchers he wanted to see more aggressiveness in the strike zone, Saturday was an encouraging day for a lot of them. While Max Scherzer racked up five strikeouts over four scoreless innings against the Mets in Port St. Lucie, Fla., the combination of Willis, Bonderman, Robertson and Jose Valverde pretty much held down a Yankees split-squad lineup that included Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher on a day when the wind was helping fly balls at Joker Marchant Stadium.

Leyland might be no closer to an answer on which of his three potential starters will be in the Detroit rotation to start the season. His decision, however, looks quite a bit more comfortable now than it did a couple days ago, when Bonderman was one of back-to-back Tigers starters to get knocked out in the opening inning.

"I saw some progress in all of them," Leyland said. "That's a good thing."

Leyland didn't want to get into what it meant for the rotation, but neither did any of the pitchers involved. At this point, after everything they've been through, they're pulling for each other rather than promoting themselves.

"If it's here or somewhere else, these guys are great people, great guys," Bonderman said.

It would be difficult to find anyone on the Tigers who isn't pulling for good results from Willis, who has lost most of the past two seasons. He had his good days last year, but his bad days looked terrible, capped by eight walks in his final start.

Saturday, he suggested, was not one of his better days, but it didn't become a disaster. Though the Yankees hit the ball harder than the Braves did in his previous outing, Detroit's defense stepped up with key plays. Adam Everett turned a double play to erase Jeter's leadoff single in the opening inning. Austin Jackson flew into the fence back-first on two acrobatic catches in the second inning.

Willis had a lone walk and reached two other three-ball counts in his three innings, but only one over his final 10 batters.

"I've got to be honest, man, and not knocking anybody, but I felt terrible," Willis said. "I didn't have very good rhythm, and I'm a weird guy in the sense that I fall behind and then I zero in. And then, all of a sudden the big guys come up and I'm strike one, strike two. I don't know what that is, but when I had to make pitches, I was able to make pitches against some good hitters.

"You're not going to feel great every time out, but I battled and I grinded it out. I'm actually more happy about this than my other outings before, because [today] I was grinding and I got some good ground balls for some guys."

Perhaps the best example came after the lone run he gave up. Back-to-back one-out singles from Swisher and Teixeira scored Jeter and put runners at first and second for Alex Rodriguez. Willis spotted back-to-back fastballs on A-Rod -- one for a called strike, the other fouled off -- before Rodriguez hit one to Everett to start an inning-ending double play.

Willis topped out at 92 mph on the stadium radar gun, 91 according to a Major League scout in attendance.

Bonderman followed and was tested, but he also got outs when he needed to. After he hit Minor Leaguer David Winfree with an 0-2 pitch to put runners on first and second with two outs in the fourth, he fell behind on Eduardo Nunez before getting him to pop up a 2-0 pitch to short. After Rodriguez doubled in Teixeira with two outs in the fifth, Bonderman got a called third strike on former teammate Marcus Thames, then retired the side in order in the sixth. His lone splitter was a nasty one, garnering a swing and miss.

"I kind of went back to the basics, just reached back and tried to throw as hard as I can and have fun," said Bonderman, who topped out at 93 mph.

Robertson's outing was the shortest, but statistically -- and possibly pitchingwise -- the best. Not only did he retire all six batters he faced, he struck out three of them -- including Jeter on a nasty slider in the dirt -- and allowed only one ball out of the infield. Add that to his three scoreless innings against the Blue Jays last Sunday, and he has allowed one baserunner with five strikeouts over five innings since his two-run inning in the Tigers' spring opener.

More important, he has become an unpredictable pitcher with his selection and regained his nasty slider to impress scouts.

"I threw four or five changeups that were very effective and that I could throw anything off of," Robertson said. "Just throwing strikes for anybody, it's the game, and then you can start doing some other things. You get to my swing-and-miss pitches, and my slider, it was sharp. You get to kill counts, and you can throw a chase slider instead of the one you have to throw over the plate for a strike."

When asked before the game, Leyland didn't want to call it the biggest game of the spring by any means. Instead, he called it "the start of a two-week period that's critical for us -- not for the pitchers, for us."

The pitchers sense the urgency themselves, but it's a collective sense. They seemed to answer it Saturday.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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PostSubject: Re: 2010 ST PITCHING NEWS   Sun Mar 14, 2010 6:56 pm

Last Updated: March 13. 2010 1:00AM
Possible Tigers starters look good vs. Yankees
Lynn Henning / The Detroit News

Lakeland, Fla. -- Making too much of a good performance, getting too sour after a bad one, that's not the way Jim Leyland appraises his pitchers during spring training.

It is why he was so restrained following the Tigers' 6-2 whipping of the New York Yankees Saturday at Marchant Stadium, a victory that featured three solid pitching efforts from three significant pitchers: Dontrelle Willis, Jeremy Bonderman, and Nate Robertson.

"I saw progress in all of 'em," Leyland said, nodding as he picked at a plate of beef in the manager's office.

"That's a good thing. I'd say all of 'em made progress today."

It's also a good thing for Leyland's starting rotation, given he still isn't sure who will win his No. 4 and No. 5 spots.

The pitching was a huge storyline after Leyland spent much of the week fretting about his back-end starters and about too many Tigers pitchers who tend to throw too few quality strikes.

The reports were also good, with respect to Saturday's starter, from the Tigers' split-squad game against the New York Mets at Port St. Lucie, Fla., which the Mets won, 9-1. Max Scherzer, who had been bashed in his last start, pitched four innings, allowing one hit, while striking out five and walking none.

At Lakeland, the Tigers offense joined Leyland's pitchers in an effort he described as "a pretty good day, all in all."

Ryan Raburn was 4-for-4, slamming two doubles and a pair of singles. Johnny Damon ripped a home run over the right-field fence, and Gerald Laird, whose offense has been markedly better in the early days of Grapefruit League play, lined a two-run single to center.

But no matter how he was obliged to soft-pedal Saturday's outings, three pitchers who are competing for two open rotation slots needed to show Leyland -- and themselves -- they could handle a tough Yankees lineup.

Willis, the 28-year-old left-hander who has had such trouble since joining the Tigers in 2008, started and worked three innings. He allowed one run, four hits (one an infield short-hop that got past third baseman Brandon Inge), one walk and no strikeouts.

He had a low-90-mph, four-seam fastball, a two-seamer that got him a pair of double plays and a force-out, as well as a breaking ball that stayed in the strike zone.

"When I had to make quality pitches and get guys to hit ground balls, I was able to," said Willis, who won't be satisfied until he can steadily get ahead of hitters.

"I want to command early. I've just got to do a better job of getting those counts 1-1 instead of 2-0."

Bonderman's triumph was in showing off his old power-pitching repertoire. He had a fastball that cruised as high as 94 mph, and a rock-solid slider. He even threw a split-finger fastball that burned Yankees slugger Mark Teixeira.

He allowed four hits in three innings, one an infield single, and one a broken-bat blooper. He struck out two batters and walked none.

"I kind of went back to basics," said Bonderman, who because of arterial surgery has not pitched regularly in three seasons. "I reared back and tried to throw as hard as I could, and have fun. I didn't think about mechanics.

"It felt good to get back out and pitch."

Robertson's fastball never cracked 90 mph during his two-inning stint, but it didn't need to. He had his biting slider going for him, which was good for three strikeouts, no hits, and no walks.

"It was sharp," he said of his slider. "It's been sharp. And I threw four or five changeups today, too."

Robertson added, "I don't know right now that I can get back to 93-94" in throwing his fastball. But the 32-year-old left-hander also believes pitching to both sides of the plate, and mixing in his slider -- it has always been his out-pitch -- could be the best recipe for a man who, like Bonderman and Willis, is looking to reclaim some old luster.

Jose Valverde, the Tigers' new closer, finished off the Yankees in the ninth, striking out the side during a dicey inning in which he also allowed a pair of singles and a walk.

...

From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100313/SPORTS0104/3130375/Possible-Tigers-starters-look-good-vs.-Yankees#ixzz0iBs4dQjO


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PostSubject: Re: 2010 ST PITCHING NEWS   Tue Mar 16, 2010 8:09 pm

Dombrowski intently watching pitchers
Willis, Robertson, Bonderman attempting comebacks

By Jason Beck / MLB.com

03/16/10 5:48 PM ET

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Manager Jim Leyland isn't the only one watching prospective Tigers starters and weighing the rotation decisions to come. So is team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski, who also has to weigh the decisions that await the players who don't make it.

Dombrowski built a rotation with Jeremy Bonderman and Nate Robertson when they came into their prime a few years back, added Dontrelle Willis a couple years ago, then rebuilt the rotation with younger arms at the front once injuries and inconsistency took a toll on their careers. Now as he watches their comeback attempts and turns impressions into evaluations, he's feeling a mix of emotions.

"I'm confident, yet I'm also anxious," Dombrowski said. "I can't describe it. It's one of those things. I think somebody will jump up. I've felt very good about how our guys have been throwing the ball. They've gotten better, too. But you've got two more weeks of Spring Training. I think everybody's got three more starts or four more starts, and you're in a position where a lot of things happen in the last three or four starts of Spring Training."

Dombrowski's anxious for a lot of reasons, and it's hard to blame him if contracts are one of them. But he emphasized that he isn't letting contracts shape the Tigers' final decisions.

"Contracts always come into play," he said, "but I'm also in a spot where I think we're committed [to good decisions]. If you haven't seen by now that we're committed to taking the best team going north, I don't know if you'll ever be sold on it."

Dombrowski held a 20-minute session with a handful of writers during batting practice at Bright House Field on Tuesday morning before the Tigers' Grapefruit League game against the Phillies. He touched on a lot of topics, with pitching foremost among them.

The evaluations pick up again Wednesday, when Robertson tries to continue his Spring Training tear against the Pirates in Bradenton, Fla. Willis will start Thursday against the Astros in Lakeland, Fla., then Bonderman will face the Braves on Friday evening at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex. Armando Galarraga gave up three runs against the Blue Jays on Monday, while Eddie Bonine is slated to pitch in relief Wednesday.

Though Leyland makes a lot of the evaluations as manager, the final decisions rest with Dombrowski, who's responsible for assembling the roster. He isn't anywhere near that point yet, but he's watching, and he's generally felt positive about it.

Robertson has thrown five innings of one-hit ball in his past two outings. Dombrowski pointed out two things about him.

"He worked on stretching and Pilates and all that," Dombrowski said. "He looks taller and more limber. I think he's gotten himself into position where he's helped himself with his program. Secondly, he's healthy with his arm. Nate, you forget, he was throwing the ball pretty hard, but his out pitch has always been his slider, and it looks like he has his slider. I think he has to make the adjustment, and it looks like he's making the adjustment."

With Bonderman, Dombrowski said, research suggests pitchers who undergo the type of surgery he did for thoracic outlet syndrome -- a condition in which blood vessels in the shoulder are restricted -- always come back healthy throwing at his old velocity.

"I think the more he gets a chance to pitch -- and he hasn't really pitched on a consistent basis for a year and a half -- his arm strength will only continue to build," Dombrowski said. "We know he has a quality slider, and I think that [splitter] is the best changeup I've seen him throw. Now the key is he just has to throw it more."

Dombrowski agreed with the assertion that Willis has been a pleasant surprise.

"I guess so, because he's throwing strikes more consistently," Dombrowski said. "He worked very hard in the wintertime and he's thrown strikes. His stuff is fine; it was fine last year. But I think the best part of it is he's thrown the ball over the plate on a pretty consistent basis. Now, everybody has a walk here or there, but he's in a position where he's done that very well. If he does, he's a big league pitcher."

The trio combined will make $34.5 million this season. But when asked how much contracts complicate decisions, Dombrowski downplayed it. His recent history, including the $13.6 million salary Detroit ate to release Gary Sheffield last year, suggests they'll take their best candidates.

"You always have options come into play," he said. "Outrights come into play, free agency if you outright guys. Everything comes into play. But first and foremost is players' performance and what we think gives us the best club. Now, you also have to realize you have 162 games to play in six months and you're going to need your depth, too."

Not all of those pitchers will make the rotation, unless injuries are involved, but Dombrowski indicated it's possible one or more of them could pitch in relief.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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PostSubject: Re: 2010 ST PITCHING NEWS   Wed Mar 17, 2010 12:31 am

Last Updated: March 16. 2010 8:22PM
Dave Dombrowski likes balance, depth of Tigers' roster
Lynn Henning / The Detroit News

Dave Dombrowski, the man who made some roster-shaking trades during the past offseason, said Tuesday he was pleased with the way new -- and old -- personnel have been melding during spring camp.

"It's still spring training," said Dombrowski, the Tigers' president and general manager, who spoke at Bright House Field before the Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies met, "but I've seen a lot of good things take place."

Among players and situations Dombrowski talked about:

Austin Jackson, the team's new center fielder, and a rookie who has been perhaps the biggest story in camp: "He's had a good spring so far. We knew he could go get the ball. But it's an interesting thing: You scratch your head when you see his strikeout totals in the minor leagues and here (only four entering Tuesday's game), and they don't seem to mesh. He's shown an ability to recognize pitches. And he's got pop."

On the flux at the back end of manager Jim Leyland's starting rotation: "I'm confident, yet I'm anxious. I think somebody will jump up."

On the chances right-hander Eddie Bonine, who has been working on a knuckleball, might end up on the team: "He's done a nice job. The knuckleball continues to improve. He's had a knuckleball for a long time, since we Rule 5'd him." (Bonine was taken in the 2005 Rule 5 minor-league draft.)

On the thus far surprising performance by left-hander Dontrelle Willis: "I guess I'd call him a pleasant surprise. He's thrown strikes. The best part is that he's thrown the ball over the plate."

On the recovery by right-hander Jeremy Bonderman, who has not pitched regularly since 2008: "I've done a lot of research on his injury (arterial surgery), and anybody (pitcher) who's had it has come back. We've seen him throw with his old velocity. We know he has a quality slider, and I think the best change-up (split-finger pitch Bonderman has adopted) he's thrown. He's gonna just have to throw it more. It's the first time I've seen it where I could say, 'That's a good change-up.'"

On the prospects for left-hander Nate Robertson:
"I think Nate looks taller. Through stretching and pilates, he's more limber. Nate's out-pitch was always his slider and it looks like he has his slider back."

On the hot hitting from Magglio Ordonez during Detroit's early Grapefruit League games: "He's swung the bat as well as I've seen him swing the bat. The ball just has a different sound off his bat. He's driving the ball."

On new acquisition Johnny Damon: "I think Damon has added a lot to us, in a lot of ways. He took questions away at the top of the lineup. We have in our clubhouse a lot of quality guys, and a lot of quiet guys. He brings a vibrancy. He's been great, tremendous."

On the Tigers' young pitchers and position prospects who have drawn rave reviews during spring camp:
"I've talked about this, but (through the offseason trades) we set ourselves up to compete this year, and for the future. We needed an influx of depth. Now, to Verlander, Porcello and Scherzer, you have (Andrew) Oliver, (Casey) Crosby and (Jacob) Turner, who all project to be 1s and 2s (top-of-the-rotation pitchers). I don't think they're going to be spending a long time in the minors."

lynn.henning@detnews.com


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PostSubject: Re: 2010 ST PITCHING NEWS   Thu Mar 25, 2010 12:03 am

Porcello, Perry learn ropes together
Roommates formed strong bond during rookie season

By Jason Beck / MLB.com

03/24/10 4:20 PM ET

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Rick Porcello has more going in his favor than most 21-year-olds could dream of having. He has a 14-win rookie season, a breakout game under the national spotlight in the most pressure-filled of starts, contract security and a frontline rotation spot.

And when he can get a few more golf shots on his roommate, Ryan Perry, that's a really good day.

"Don't ask about golf," Porcello sighs with a smile. "My game is terrible. His game is really good."

Good to know success hasn't gone to their heads. In fact, it hasn't even gone to their apartment.

A year ago, they were the two rookie hurlers going through unexpected success in the big leagues together, from winning roster spots out of Spring Training to playing important roles down the stretch of a playoff race. Now, they're showing every sign of stepping into bigger roles in 2010 -- Porcello starting the Tigers' home opener, Perry potentially setting up for closer Jose Valverde.

Every sign, though, also shows they're the same people. They're sharing a place again this spring, and they're sharing their experiences.

"It's a little different, just because we have a better idea what to expect," Porcello said. "Last year, there were so many unknowns for both of us, as far as whether or not we could compete at the big league level on a day-in, day-out basis and contribute to the team.

"It's easier to go through a new experience with someone else there going through the same [thing] than it is to go through it by yourself. When either one of us was struggling, you have a friend there, somebody to talk to."

It's not just that their age and playing levels make them a match. Their personalities complement each other almost perfectly.

"We definitely get along very well," Perry said. "He's definitely more low-key. I'm kind of more out-there."

Porcello was the consummate hard-to-flap starter last year, despite his youth. His personality is as even-keeled as his mound demeanor. He now sits in the wing of the Tigers' Spring Training clubhouse that houses the established starters, next to ace Justin Verlander, but he generally has the same quiet presence that he did when he was among the Spring Training hopefuls on the other side of the room.

That personality, moreso the consistency of it, sometimes makes him seem older than he actually is. As he caught a second wind to his rookie season just in time to help the Tigers in their playoff push, it was difficult to tell most days that he still wasn't old enough to take full part in a champagne celebration if they actually won the division.

Perry, by contrast, goes about his work with the same energy he brings to the mound in late-game situations. He had to learn how to control it in pressure scenarios and let it work for him rather than against him.

"Maybe that's why we get along so well," Porcello said. "I don't want to say we're exact opposites."

Said Perry: "We definitely complement each other well. We've never had an issue with each other, and we've lived with each other for the last year or so."

But when they're away from the ballpark, they don't talk much about baseball. They might have a good word or two from each other to lift their spirits, but they're more likely to play a video game or hit the links to get away.

"Usually we talk about other stuff," Porcello said.

On the golf course, ironically, their games are the complete opposite of their personalities. One could easily envision Perry ripping long drives with reckless abandon and struggling to maneuver the short game. Not so. Think: Porcello.

"I really just started playing once I got into pro ball," Porcello said. "A couple years ago, I kind of picked it up. I'm kind of a self-taught golfer, too, so I do some stuff unorthodox. I just enjoy going out there and playing."

Perry, by contrast, lettered twice in golf at Marana High School in Arizona. He plays his courses tactically, and he plays well enough to rank among the better players on the team. Still, the competitiveness in Perry comes out when Porcello suggests he can outdrive his roommate.

"The one thing I do have on him," Porcello said, "is that I do drive the ball farther -- if I can hit it straight. He might not want to admit it."

Not really, no.

"He can sometimes," Perry corrects, "if he hits it straight one out of every 10 shots. But on consistency, I've got him by that much."

Nevertheless, at no point does Porcello suggest he can outplay Perry for a round. They'll usually go with match play, hole by hole, to make it interesting and provide Porcello a fairer chance. They've had plenty of chances to take their shots, one of the upshots of getting to the big leagues.

"It's fun to go play courses you've never played before and never really thought about playing," Perry said. "When we go to places where they have nice courses like that, we get the chance to go. It's definitely fun. It's definitely relaxing and it takes your mind off things."

Porcello says he hasn't had many chances to play this spring. That might not help him against Perry, but Porcello takes competitive aim at other teammates, namely catcher Gerald Laird.

"He definitely beat me," Laird said, "but I've made some storming comebacks. He forgets to tell you that. He definitely beat me twice, but the season's still young. He's my pitcher. I have to make him feel good."

Make no mistake -- both Perry and Porcello are as competitive off the field as on. They just show it in different ways, which helps make them such an interesting pair.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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PostSubject: Re: 2010 ST PITCHING NEWS   Tue Mar 30, 2010 11:59 pm

Posted: 2:40 p.m. March 30, 2010
Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski breaks down pitching decision

By JOHN LOWE
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Comments from Detroit Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski on today's Nate Robertson trade, which puts Jeremy Bonderman and Dontrelle Willis in the starting rotation:

On Willis: We have a lot of confidence in him coming back. Hes done a lot. Hes pitched well (in spring training). I looked the other day, and he was third in all of Major League Baseball in ERA. Hes throwing the ball well, too. Hes worked hard. We feel comfortable hell do a good job for us.

Hes throwing strikes. His ball has had quality movement. He looks more confident on the mound.

I was sitting with somebody from another organization that saw him pitch a lot in the National League who, after his last start, said, That looked like the Dontrelle I saw back in Florida.

On Bonderman: Hes come back. Hes continued to progress. His arm strength is average to a tick above. It looks like hes sinking the ball well. His slider has been good. He continues to work on his change -- hes thrown some good ones. I dont want to say hes got exactly the same stuff, because he used to throw 96-97 m.p.h. But its solid, major league stuff. Hes aggressive. You can tell he feels confident.

I think hes convinced he needs to be a three-pitch pitcher, and he will use (his third pitch, the split-finger fastball).

On Robertson: "Ive known Nate a long time, and he was a little shaken (by the trade) because he had done so much. He said, My heart is in Detroit. Im sure hell go out and pitch well for Florida. They acquired him to be in the rotation, so give him a lot of credit for that."

On the trade: We knew we had to make a decision as far as the starting rotation. Weve had three guys battling for two spots, and even though we were prepared to put one of them into the bullpen if we needed to, we felt it would be better if (the pitcher that didnt make the rotation) went out and pitched.

All three of them continued to throw the ball well, and clubs were watching.

On whether it can be said that Bonderman and Willis beat out Robertson, thus leading to the trade: We would have felt comfortable with any of them. But Bondo and Dontrelle were going to be our fourth and fifth starters. If we would not have made a deal, we probably would have put Nate in the bullpen.

Contact JOHN LOWE: 313-223-4053 or jlowe@freepress.com. Read more in his Tigers blog at freep.com/tigersblog.


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