We shouldn’t expect miracles from him, but the Red Sox Saturday made official the naming of Carl Willis, 54, as the club’s major league pitching coach.
The Danville, Virginia native was drafted by the Tigers in the 23rd round of the 1983 amateur draft. He went on to pitch primarily as a reliever over 9 seasons in the big leagues appearing in 267 total games with stops in Detroit, Cincinnati, Chicago, and Minnesota. With the Twins, “Big Train” posted a 2.63 ERA in 40 games of their 1991 World Series campaign.
After his playing career, Willis held a number of minor league coaching positions with the Cleveland organization before being promoted to Indians pitching coach from 2003-2009. There he worked with Cy Young Award winners CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee. From 2010-2013 he was the pitching coach for the Seattle Mariners, working with Felix Hernandez.
Most recently Willis was pitching coach for the Triple-A Columbus Clippers, who coincidentally faced the Pawtucket Red Sox this weekend.
Manager John Farrell knows Willis well, as the two worked together throughout Farrell’s stint as Director of Player Development for the Indians from 2001-2006.
Work cut out
In joining the Red Sox Willis will have his work cut out for himself. The pitching staff has thus far allowed 5.21 opponent runs per game this season, the most in the American League and 3rd-most in baseball. Boston pitchers are throwing 62.2% of their pitches for strikes, the 2nd-lowest rate in the AL behind the Blue Jays.
Red Sox pitchers are last in the American League for ERA (4.95), hits allowed (273), and earned runs allowed (145).
The Red Sox say Willis will join the club in Toronto for the series finale on Sunday.