Thursday, March 25, 2010

Willis and Bonderman Battling for Rotation Spot

The Tigers have two games today - one versus the Blue Jays at Lakeland at 1:00 and another versus the Nationals at Viera at 7:00 tonight. The first game will feature Dontrelle Willis, who has been surprisingly good this spring. We've heard mixed reports on his velocity but his command has been better this spring. It couldn't get much worse. He's still walking too many - 5 batters in 11 innings - but he doesn't appear to have Steve Blass disease at the moment. He has an excellent 0.82 ERA so far. It would be good see what he could do stretched out over five innings.

Jeremy Bonderman has not been consistently sharp this spring. He's had a couple of decent games, one not so good one and a horrible game where he couldn't get out of the first inning. He has a 2.19 WHIP in 8 2/3 innings thus far. His velocity is coming back but he'll probably never throw mid nineties again. So, he'll have to be more of a pitcher. His annual search for a new pitch has led him to a split finger pitch this year. Jim Leyland said he needs to learn it this time because he no longer has the stuff to get by on two pitches.

It's not a lock but it looks like Nate Roberston (14 k in 14 2/3 innings) will make the starting rotation. Bonderman and Willis appear to be in competition for the fifth spot but Eddie Bonine can not be ruled out either. I'm still betting on Bonderman but Willis is gaining with each outing. With Bobby Seay and Zach Miner likely headed for the DL to start the season, there are spots open in the bullpen. Those who don't make the rotation could take those slots.

There is still much to be decided with less than two weeks to go. Today's performances could help shape those decisions.

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