He hadn’t pitched in a while, and it showed.
“Early on I was a little shaky, but once I got settled in I felt fine,” he said this morning. “That’s the one thing about baseball - you take a couple days off and it’s like a whole different world as far as the speed. But I settled in. I just need more game experience.
“Hopefully, I can get in a couple of these B games because there’s not a lot of innings left. Hopefully, I’ll continue to get more work in and go from there.”
Willis needed to adjust his tempo. He got a pop up and a ground ball that nearly took him off the hook, but the Orioles couldn’t turn a double play. Mark Reynolds’ throwing error let a second run score.
“I had to slow down. Just slow down and have fun,” Willis said. “(Matt) Wieters did a good job of coming out and talking to me. ‘Just slow down and come to me.’ And I said, ‘I know.’
“I actually worked my butt off working out, so I wasn’t even sure I was going to play, but you’ve got to do things like that, especially coming out of the bullpen. Be ready and get up whenever you can. Once I settled in and got some guys to mishit some balls and let the defense take over, it was fun again.
“That’s my fourth (relief) outing, probably the sixth in my whole career. And there was a span of two weeks where I didn’t get into any games, so I just need more experience. I’m a feel guy. I need more experience to go out there and do things like that, and the better I’ll get.”
Willis’ fastball increased from 82 mph to 87 mph.
“I just got looser,” he said. “I can get stronger than that. It’s just going out there and knowing how to warm up, because I felt fine in the bullpen, but everyone’s different. Kevin Gregg’s different, how he warms up, I’m different, so I just have to get to the point where I feel I’m ready to go out there and get people out.”
Willis threw in the bullpen after coming out of the game.
“I wanted to throw more,” he said. “That’s the only way you get better is getting mound work and doing things like that. That’s not for anybody else but for myself to go out there and get more feel and feel better on the mound. I threw my breaking pitches well. It’s just the fastball command.”
The Orioles haven’t told Willis when he’ll pitch again.
“No, but I kind of like it like that because that’s how it’s going to be in the big leagues,” he said. “I don’t want to know because honestly they don’t know. When they’re ready to get me in a game, I’ll be ready.”