LAKELAND, Fla. -- Dontrelle Willis sat at his locker, smiling and patiently answering questions after another strong spring outing on Thursday.
Competing with Jeremy Bonderman and Nate Robertson for the final two spots in the Detroit Tigers starting rotation, Willis allowed just one run in four innings of a 5-1 win over the Toronto Blue Jays."I'm a part of this team," Willis said pointing at the name tag above his locker at Tigertown. "Whatever they want me to do. I'm rooting for the other guys as much as I'm rooting for myself. That's my name right next to the logo. I am part of the team."Willis gave up two hits and walked three, including the first two batters, but he said he felt comfortable making adjustments. His spring ERA actually rose to 1.20, but Willis said he has never felt more confident."I made quality pitches," Willis said. "When I got in trouble I was able to minimize the damages. Sometimes you have to make adjustments. I focused on getting outs, not blowing anyone away. I haven't always done that."Willis won only one game for the Tigers last season, a far cry from when he won 22 for the Florida Marlins in 2005. He's won only once in 15 games since his trade to Detroit in 2008."I'm working on making adjustments when I need to this spring," Willis said. "For the first time in a while, I am pitching with confidence and having fun."Leyland isn't making any decisions yet. Willis has better numbers that Robertson or Bonderman this spring, but Leyland isn't handing Willis the No. .4 spot just yet."I was impressed by his command of his pitches," Leyland said. "He didn't have much control. His stuff was darting around and that was god, and he's worked hard. I am not worried about him, but I like the other guys also."Leyland said it will be a last-second decision."None of them have gotten their socks knocked off," Leyland said. "It's a tough call but I like the way (Willis) has changed. When he walked the first two guys, last year I would have been concerned. This year I'm not worried. This year I knew he wouldn't blow up out there."Willis said he feels like he is still the odd man out for the final two spots. Instead of worrying, he said he's just going to make the best of his spring audition."This was a big day for me," Willis said. "Every day is a big day for me right now. I'm just going to pay attention to the team and do what they want and I'll be rooting for Nate and Jeremy. They are my teammates. I am really glad to see them do well and I think they feel the same about me."Toronto starter Marc Rzepczynski allowed three runs and walked four in five innings. He said he knows what his problem is as he saw his spring ERA rise to 5.06."I just can't think when I am out there," Rzepczynski said. "I need to be able to stop thinking. When I'm thinking too much, that's when I get into trouble. I need to just throw pitches. It's not that tough."Ramon Santiago had two this for the Tigers and Miguel Cabrera hit his sixth double of the spring. John McDonald and Edwin Encarnacion had the only hits, both singles, for Toronto.Phil Coke, Joel Zumaya, Jose Valverde, Fu-Te Ni, and Ryan Perry each pitched a hitless inning for the Tigers.TIGERS: Clete Thomas left the game in the fourth inning after bruising his right shoulder blade. Leyland said he is day to day. Zumaya, who Leyland described as "sick as a dog" with a stomach virus on Tuesday, pitched an inning and allowed a walk and struck out one. ... Rookie CF Austin Jackson is tied for the Grapefruit League with hits this spring with 18. ... C Alex Avila is tied for the lead with seven doubles. ... Bonderman was starting on Thursday in a split squad game against the Washington Nationals in Viera, Fla. On Friday, Justin Verlander will pitch at Kissimmee against the Atlanta Braves. Derek Lowe will start for the Braves.