SARASOTA, Fla. — Dontrelle Willis just completed his worst outing of spring training when Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland stepped to the mound and told the left-hander something that made him feel much better: Willis will open the season as part of Detroit's opening rotation.
Despite struggling Tuesday in a 10-9 win over the Baltimore Orioles, Willis will be the No. 3 man in the rotation. His position became solidified earlier in the day, when the Tigers traded left-hander Nate Robertson to Florida.
Willis gave up five runs, seven hits and four walks in 4 1-3 innings. The performance lifted his ERA from 1.20 to 3.26, but Leyland said the lefty wasn't nearly as erratic as his pitching line would indicate.
“I thought he was very good today. I don't think that was anything like we've seen in the past,” Leyland said. “He was missing down, he was missing close.”
“I was actually very pleased with it. I was very encouraged,” he said.
Willis is a two-time All-Star and the 2003 NL rookie of the year, but he's won only one game over two seasons while battling injuries, inconsistency, and an anxiety disorder.
Miguel Cabrera hit two long home runs for the Tigers and Alex Avila singled in the tiebreaking run in the ninth inning.
Both of Cabrera's home runs came off Brad Bergesen. After hitting a two-run drive to left in the first inning, he added a solo shot in the fifth that cleared the high wall in center.
Scott Sizemore and Don Kelly also connected for the Tigers.
Miguel Tejada went 4 for 4 for Baltimore, hitting three doubles to raise his batting average 64 points to .255.
Robert Andino homered for the Orioles, who rallied from a 5-0 deficit to take a 9-8 lead before the bullpen collapsed.
Bergesen gave up four runs before getting and out and ended up yielding six runs, six hits and four walks in five innings.
“I was out of whack today. That was very evident,” he said. “I never really felt like I got in a groove, just started throwing pitches up there without really knowing what I wanted to do. They beat me today.”
NOTES: The Orioles have told veteran C Chad Moeller that rookie Craig Tatum will be the backup to Matt Wieters. ... Baltimore signed OF Joey Gathright to a minor league contract. He was released by Toronto on Sunday. ... Baltimore cut eight players: pitchers Chris Tillman, Alberto Castillo, Alfredo Simon, and Ross Wolf; INFs Scott Moore and Justin Turner, and OF Jeff Salazar and C Adam Donachie.