05/07/07 6:54 PM EST
Notes: Willis grateful to Clemens
Marlins ace got pointers from Rocket at World Baseball Classic
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
The D-Train was a teammate on Team USA with the legendary Roger Clemens, who just signed as a free agent with the Yankees.
Willis was touched that Clemens made it a point to personally seek him out to talk pitching.
"When he talked to me, he told me, 'The only thing that would be your enemy is you are too eager. You get out there and rush,'" Willis said of his advice from The Rocket. "He told me to let the battle come to me. It's like you're ready to pitch at 4 [p.m.] instead of 7 [p.m.]. You've got to relax and get into the rhythm of the game. He said, 'I bet you give up a lot of runs early in the game.' I said, 'Well, I do give up a lot runs early in the game.' "
Willis likes to keep things simple, and he joked with Clemens that he was "a little too complex to me."
Clemens also had different advice for the other young pitchers on the USA squad. What he talked to Jake Peavy about was different that what he spoke to Willis about. The same with Scott Linebrink and Brad Lidge.
"It was different," Willis said. "He didn't cookie cut it. He knew how to apply it. He knew what our weaknesses were and what our strengths were. That's impressive, because I can't tell what the next guy is doing."
Clemens invited Willis to run with him during the WBC, and he talked to the D-Train about preparation.
Because Willis is so animated and highly charged, Clemens talked to him about slowing down his tempo.
Clemens said to Willis: "Where you probably get beaten most is because you are too amped up early. He recognized that, and had seen that in me. The guy has been around so many pitchers, it's amazing that he recognized and saw that in me. He's half-man, half-amazing.
Marlins infielder Aaron Boone was a teammate of Clemens on the 2003 Yankees. The signing, Boone said, will boost New York.
"He can still pitch, and considering the Yankees' situation right now, frankly, he's exactly what they need right now," Boone said. "He's someone capable of giving them quality starts right now. I think it's what they need. He's obviously one of the greatest pitchers of all time. He's a good guy, so he will want to help those guys. For that reason, he would be a plus."
De Aza recovering: Alejandro De Aza tested his sore right ankle in a series of running drills, moving forward and backwards, during warmups Monday afternoon.
The rookie center fielder, who has been on the disabled list retroactive to April 16, is getting closer to begin playing in rehab assignments.
Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said that because De Aza has not played since pinch-hitting on April 15 at Atlanta, the rookie will need five or six rehab assignment games before being reinstated.
De Aza has been hitting regularly in the batting cage, but he hasn't seen any game action since.
Olsen on mark: Scott Olsen's bread-and-butter pitch is his unpredictable slider, which when it is on, will break in baffling ways.
However, to set up that pitch, the left-hander must get ahead in counts with his fastball and work off that pitch. Olsen again showed improvement with his command in a loss on Sunday to the Padres.
Despite being on the losing end of 3-1 decision to Peavy, Olsen turned in a solid 6 2/3-inning performance. Olsen credits his recent success to "fastball location and throwing strikes earlier in the count."
When he has fallen behind in counts, he noted the hitters "knew what was coming."
"When you're 1-0, 2-0, in the count every time, they're going to hit," Olsen said. "You see that when you look at their averages. When they are 0-1, 0-2, their averages go way down. But you've got to get ahead early. The better my fastball location is usually, the better my slider is."
MRI for Ross: Cody Ross will have an MRI on his left hamstring Tuesday.
Ross went on the DL Saturday after straining his hamstring while running the bases. He has been walking around, and he was feeling a bit better on Monday.
As long as there isn't a tear, he is hopeful to be back not too long after he is eligible to come off the DL on May 20. Since the Marlins will be at Tampa Bay that day, and they are off the next day, realistically the earliest he would return is May 22 against Philadelphia at home.
Fish bite: Back in South Florida, Juan Pierre decided to make himself at home again at Dolphin Stadium. Now the Dodgers center fielder, Pierre parked in Willis' spot at the stadium. Pierre is going to be the Godfather to Willis' baby girl.
Up next: In the second of four games with the Dodgers, the Marlins send Wes Obermueller (1-1, 3.07) to the mound, while Los Angeles counters with lefty Mark Hendrickson (2-0, 1.30).
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.