Launching Pad: Willis tries again to revive his career

What to expect in the major leagues today:

A new season, and a new start, for Dontrelle Willis.
A new season, and a new start, for Dontrelle Willis.

D-Train back on track?

After posting a 3.22 ERA in 22 1/3 innings this spring, Tigers left-hander Dontrelle Willis was awarded the No. 5 starter job. In fact, Detroit dealt Nate Robertson, Willis’ chief competition for that role, to the Marlins late in spring training. But it remains to be seen if the Tigers’ confidence in Willis is wise. In two seasons with Detroit, Willis is 1-6 with an 8.27 ERA in 15 games (14 starts). He has pitched more in the minors — 5-7, 4.52 ERA in 19 games (18 starts) — than the majors since his trade from the Marlins to the Tigers. The D-Train will be on the mound tonight in Kansas City.

Speaking of Robertson …

Robertson was drafted by the Marlins in 1999 and posted an 11.88 ERA in six games (one start) with them in 2002, prior to being dealt to the Tigers. But he is back and will start tonight at Citi Field in the series finale against the Mets. Robertson will be opposed by Jon Niese, whose 6.52 ERA this spring actually was better than that of teammates Johan Santana (6.75), John Maine (7.88) and Oliver Perez (8.68). The last time the 23-year-old Niese was on a mound in a regular season game (Aug. 5, 2009), he crumbled to the ground after tearing his right hamstring from the bone.

The future is now

Braves fans have plenty of reasons to be excited this season, and two of them will be on the field tonight against the Cubs. On the mound will be 23-year-old right-hander Tommy Hanson, who finished third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2009 after posting a 2.89 ERA in 21 starts. In right field will be 20-year-old Jason Heyward, who could bash his way with this season’s NL Rookie of the Year honor.

Chris Bahr is Sporting News’ baseball editor. E-mail him at cbahr@sportingnews.com.

What to expect in the major leagues today:

A new season, and a new start, for Dontrelle Willis.
A new season, and a new start, for Dontrelle Willis.

D-Train back on track?

After posting a 3.22 ERA in 22 1/3 innings this spring, Tigers left-hander Dontrelle Willis was awarded the No. 5 starter job. In fact, Detroit dealt Nate Robertson, Willis’ chief competition for that role, to the Marlins late in spring training. But it remains to be seen if the Tigers’ confidence in Willis is wise. In two seasons with Detroit, Willis is 1-6 with an 8.27 ERA in 15 games (14 starts). He has pitched more in the minors — 5-7, 4.52 ERA in 19 games (18 starts) — than the majors since his trade from the Marlins to the Tigers. The D-Train will be on the mound tonight in Kansas City.

Speaking of Robertson …

Robertson was drafted by the Marlins in 1999 and posted an 11.88 ERA in six games (one start) with them in 2002, prior to being dealt to the Tigers. But he is back and will start tonight at Citi Field in the series finale against the Mets. Robertson will be opposed by Jon Niese, whose 6.52 ERA this spring actually was better than that of teammates Johan Santana (6.75), John Maine (7.88) and Oliver Perez (8.68). The last time the 23-year-old Niese was on a mound in a regular season game (Aug. 5, 2009), he crumbled to the ground after tearing his right hamstring from the bone.

The future is now

Braves fans have plenty of reasons to be excited this season, and two of them will be on the field tonight against the Cubs. On the mound will be 23-year-old right-hander Tommy Hanson, who finished third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2009 after posting a 2.89 ERA in 21 starts. In right field will be 20-year-old Jason Heyward, who could bash his way with this season’s NL Rookie of the Year honor.

Chris Bahr is Sporting News’ baseball editor. E-mail him at cbahr@sportingnews.com.

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