Is Detroit's D-Train back on tracks?

Dontrelle Willis pitched yesterday. He didn't give up any runs. As Tom Gage reports, apparently Willis is a serious candidate for the Tigers' rotation:

    He threw nothing harder than 89 miles an hour.

    When his start was over, he spoke about back spasms and a sore thumb that bothered him.

    Plus he hit a batter and walked a batter in the same inning.

    But Dontrelle Willis is still in the running for a starting spot on the Tigers -- because he threw three more scoreless innings Thursday in a 5-4 victory over the Astros.

    Willis has allowed just one run this spring in 10 innings.

    "He's throwing it over the plate, they're putting it in play, which gives you a chance," manager Jim Leyland said.

    This wasn't one of Willis' more animated appearances. He was low-key on the mound, probably because he wrenched his back reaching for a ball in the first he shouldn't have.

    And also because a liner back to the mound, also in the first, stung his right thumb so badly he was still feeling it an hour later.

    "I don't know what I was thinking," he said. "I shouldn't reach for a ball like that. I'll be fine. I'll do some more back work and hopefully make my next start."

    Willis has been effective by changing speeds and throwing more strikes than he's thrown in the past for the Tigers. He's not blown hitters away as much as he's kept them guessing.

Hey, I'm pulling for Willis, too.

Is this really going to end well, though?

In those three scoreless innings, Willis "wrenched his back," hurt his thumb while trying to snag a line drive and took another line drive off his kneecap

In 10 innings, Willis has struck out six batters, walked five, and plunked two. On a happier note, he hasn't thrown any wild pitches (yet).

Willis is now a candidate for the rotation because he's got a 0.90 ERA. But if ERA over 10 innings matters, why not send Justin Verlander back to Toledo right now? He's got a 6.10 ERA!

Andres Galarraga has been dispatched to Toledo, after getting hammered in four spring outings. Galarraga had an option left, plus he didn't pitch at all well last year.

* Max Scherzer averaged fewer than six innings per start in the National League last season;

* Jeremy Bonderman is 14-14 with a 4.96 ERA over the last three seasons;

* Nate Robertson is 18-27 with a 5.52 ERA over the last three seasons; and

* Dontrelle Willis is ... well, you know about Dontrelle Willis.

They say Eddie Bonine's in the rotation mix, too.

If you choose whichever three of those you like, and add them to Verlander and Rick Porcello, do you think you've got the rotation of a contending team? All those bad contracts -- Willis and Bonderman and Robertson, but also Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen -- eventually had to roost, and it looks like this is the Year of the Chicken.