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Leyland encouraged with progress of pitchers

Leyland encouraged with progress of pitchers
SEATTLE (AP) - No time frame is set for when they might return, but Detroit manager Jim Leyland spoke optimistically Sunday about the progress of reliever Joel Zumaya and starters Dontrelle Willis and Jeremy Bonderman.

Zumaya made his first appearance at Triple-A Toledo on Saturday night, allowing two hits in two scoreless innings as he makes his way back from shoulder soreness that that landed him on the disabled list March 27.

Leyland said Zumaya is scheduled to throw consecutive games Tuesday and Wednesday with Toledo before any decision will be made on his return to the Tigers.

Leyland seemed even more excited about Willis, who went on the DL on March 29 after being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. In a recent extended spring training game at the Tigers' minor-league facility in Florida, Willis threw 48 of 62 pitches for strikes and was hitting the low 90s on the radar gun.

Willis is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment with Class-A Lakeland on Tuesday.

"I'm not going to get carried away, but I'm excited and enthused to see how he does," Leyland said. "I felt bad for the kid to come over here and things haven't been very good for him. This is a proud guy who loves to play and you hope things can get figured out. We need him."

Willis was part of the trade that brought Miguel Cabrera to Detroit before the 2008 season, then flopped making his debut in the American League. Willis spent two stints on the disabled list and was appeared in only eight games with the Tigers, going 0-2 with a 9.38 ERA.

He showed signs during the early stages of spring training of finding his control, but then was inconsistent in games before doctors diagnosed his anxiety disorder late in camp.

"It looks like some more positive steps," Leyland said.

Bonderman was shelved at the end of spring training when his surgically repaired throwing shoulder continued to be sore. The right-hander threw 40 pitches during a bullpen session in Florida recently and was hitting about 90 mph without overexerting himself.

"He felt really good," Leyland said. "He's in good spirits and I think he's come to grips that he's going to make sure he is right."

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: April 19, 2009

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