Tigers pitcher Dontrelle Willis says he lost confidence in himself. Not just lost confidence, but has a "serious lack of confidence," the Freep's Drew Sharp reported.
Willis has a solution for that, and it comes from an unlikely source.
"There was an old lady, a Yankees fan, in my neighborhood where I live," Willis recalled, "who told me that I needed to have fun playing again and I should -- how can I say this without my grandmother getting mad at me for swearing -- get my head out of my back pocket, if you will."
Well, it doesn't take a Yankees fan to tell Willis to get his head out of his ... back pocket.
But beyond that, what will Willis do to ensure 2010 is his first successful one in a Tigers uniform?
"I guess you can only beat yourself down so much. My mind-set was in the wrong place (last year). This is a backyard game. If you're not having fun, then what's the point? I think you're going to see a different person this year."
If only it were that easy.
The frustrating thing is that for one glorious game last season, Willis seemed to have a better player inside him somewhere. Against Texas last May, he gave up just one hit and two walks while pitching into the seventh inning. But maybe that was just the Rangers' batters doing him a favor. He followed that up with four walks and seven hits allowed to Colorado an appearance later, and it went downhill from there for the next month before he was once again shelved for the year.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
Fool me three times?
I want to root for Willis. He's an affable guy, a larger-than-life personality.
But at this point, dreams of Willis from his Marlins' peak are way too much to ask. With the Tigers' margin for error razor thin, I'm afraid giving him a chance to prove himself in the regular season could turn out just as poorly in 2010 as it did in 2009.
I suppose he'll get a chance to prove himself in spring training just as much as the next guy. But if -- somehow -- he were to crack the rotation and stumbles yet again, the Tigers' brass needs to pull its head out of its back pocket before it's too late.