Kansas City, Mo He walked the first batter on four pitches.
Would Dontrelle Willis’ 10-month struggle to recover from social anxiety and chronic wildness blow up in his face the first time out?
In a word, no. The former two-time National League All-Star walked two batters in the first inning but none over the next five as the Detroit Tigers beat the Kansas City Royals and its shaky bullpen, 7-3, Thursday, giving hope that Willis’ troubles finally may be a thing of the past.
“It was a gritty ballgame early,” said Willis, who had appeared in just 15 games since signing a three-year contract with Detroit in 2008. “They had me on the ropes. But with the encouragement of my team I was able to battle, make some good pitches and get us back in the dugout.”
Miguel Cabrera homered and drove in four runs for Detroit.
In his previous regular-season start June 14, Willis walked a career-high eight batters in just 32⁄3 innings.
Then he went on the disabled list the rest of the season with social-anxiety disorder.
If the right-hander can regain the form that made him a star with the Florida Marlins, the Tigers will seem almost certain to contend in the AL Central.
“Early on, I’ve got to force contact,” he said. “I think everybody’s going to have the same approach on me. I think they’re going to wait me out to see if I’m throwing the ball over the plate.”