Dontrelle Willis Teases with Strong Outing in Detroit Tigers Spring Training

Matt SCorrespondent IMarch 8, 2010

LAKELAND, FL - FEBRUARY 27:  Dontrelle Willis #21 of the Detroit Tigers poses during photo day at the Detroit Tigers Spring Training facility on February 27, 2010 in Lakeland, Florida.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

I try not to get too carried away with spring training stats. Usually at least one veteran will slump heavily only to perform as expected in the regular season, and at least one minor leaguer will get hot only to be assigned to a farm club where he fails to impress.

But that doesn't mean I ignore spring stats—I'm a stats geek at heart.

Today—as usual—I checked up on the Tigers box score to see who's hot and who's not down in Lakeland.

It was impossible to miss the headline on the Tigers' Web site: "Willis has second scoreless outing of spring."

I was intrigued, to say the least. Sure enough, Dontrelle Willis' line was good—two innings pitched, zero hits, one walk, and two strikeouts.

But he's only toed the hill for four innings so far, and we've heard this song and dance before, haven't we?

Just last May, Willis pitched six-and-a-third innings of one-hit-five-strikeout ball en route to a win over the Rangers. Many thought Dontrelle was back—or at least back to a serviceable form.

Many were wrong.

Dontrelle ended up with only the one win last year. In fact, he only pitched seven games and finished 1-4 with an ERA of almost 7.50. Dontrelle wasn't back—not even close—and we all knew it by the middle of June.

So why did I find myself with the same feeling of hope today? Why did I let myself—if only for a moment—wonder what the Tigers' rotation would be like with a healthy D-Train?

I don't know the answer, but I do know that the time for hope is gone. Dontrelle Willis will never again be the pitcher he was in 2005.

It's long past the time for me to admit that.

Don't get me wrong, I truly hope the "Train Man" comes to Detroit in April, but I'm not holding my breath.