CLEARWATER, Fla. — This is not the first impression Dontrelle Willis was hoping for.
"I was horse(bleep)," Willis said.
In his second outing this spring, Willis was yanked before completing an inning. He retired only two of the seven batters he faced, failed to locate most of his pitches, and then revealed after the game his left arm is tired.
And he has not exactly endeared himself to his new pitching coach.
"We ask for honesty," Rich Dubee said. "If a guy comes in and says he's ready to go, we have to take him for what he's worth. He'll be checked out. We'll see where we go from here."
Willis, attempting to make the transition from starter to lefthanded reliever, told team trainers Tuesday he was experiencing soreness in his arm. When he arrived at the ballpark Wednesday, he reported no problems. So he pitched.
Once he faced mostly minor-league Houston hitters, something was clearly amiss. Willis allowed four runs on three hits and two walks in two-thirds of an inning in Wednesday's 10-2 loss.
"I'm throwing nothing up there, and you can't go out there like that," a candid Willis said. "That does nobody any good, but at the same time I always want to compete. So if I don't feel 100 percent, I'm going to try to go out there and play. But in the end, it's not going to do us any good and you have to humble yourself and take a step back and reevaluate."
"They did a good job of kicking me in the butt by making me wise up today, and making me be smart about it. They said, 'You've still got time."
When asked if he's sore or just tired, Willis said, "All the above." He believes the transition to relief and a new throwing program could be the culprit.
"I think so," Willis said. "There's the throwing part of it, throwing and long tossing and trying to get a happy medium on it."
Whatever the case, Willis has not done himself any favors. He is in camp on a non-guaranteed $850,000 contract. A portion of the deal becomes guaranteed March 17.
Righthanded batters are 4 for 7 with three walks against Willis while lefties are 1 for 3. In his first outing against the Yankees, Willis allowed a run on two hits.
Dubee said he is not married to the idea of needing a second lefty in addition to Antonio Bastardo.
"We're going to take the best team possible," Dubee said. "Again, I don't see any reason to have a second lefty if he's not better than the righty before him. If he can't get anybody out, what kind of look is that?"
Contact Matt Gelb at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @magelb.