Leyland unsure how to slot Willis

Leyland unsure how to slot Willis

OAKLAND -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland is emphasizing the positive on Dontrelle Willis' first Tigers start in nearly two months, but he has positively no decision on how he'll work out Detroit's rotation with him going forward.

Leyland will talk with team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski back in Detroit, and they'll try to work out some roster issues ranging from the rotation to the numerous players on track to return from the disabled list in the coming weeks. All that Leyland can say for now is that they won't use another piggyback start when the spot in the rotation comes back around next week.

"I won't be doing that again," Leyland said, "but it was OK. I'm glad we did it. It served the purpose to get Dontrelle back out there. It's not something you like doing, but it's something we felt like we had to do."

Willis tossed four scoreless innings of two-hit ball Tuesday. He walked five A's batters, all within an eight-batter span of the third and fourth innings after showing strong command for the first 2 1/3 innings.

Those were five walks in a 22-walk game, a total Leyland called a "disgrace" for a Major League contest. Yet the fact that Willis stranded all five of the runners he walked made an impression on his manager.

"Five walks is too many, obviously," Leyland said, "but I look at the bright side. I look at what happened when he got in trouble. He geared it up a little bit. I think that's a step in the right direction. Now this guy isn't anywhere near home free, but it's a step in the right direction.

"I think you try to continue to work on the positive and not the negative. I'm just saying I thought there some signs of good hope there. I don't know how it's going to play out, but there were some signs."

Those signs reinforced Leyland's belief that Willis' command issues are mental rather than physical. His arm, Leyland said, appears to be fine.

That spot in the rotation, whether it belongs to Willis or Armando Galarraga, comes back around Monday against the Indians.

At least one more roster decision will likely be made on Thursday. The Tigers are expected to recall Denny Bautista from his rehab assignment after back-to-back solid innings Monday and Tuesday for Triple-A Toledo. Leyland has an idea how he'll shape his bullpen to make room, but he wanted to wait to discuss it with Dombrowski.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.