Willits shows his range on center stage

Willits shows his range on center stage

ANAHEIM -- It was lost in the aftermath, but Reggie Willits had a tremendous defensive game in center field filling in for nine-time Gold Glover Torii Hunter on Thursday night against the Tigers.

Willits showed uncommon range in making a pair of highlight-reel catches, robbing Magglio Ordonez with a full-tilt dive to end the fourth inning and taking extra bases away from Scott Sizemore with another diving play to open the eighth.

"I'd say the first one was a little tougher, even though I had farther to go on the second one," Willits said. "I was playing Ordonez a little deeper, to pull. Your initial reaction with a hitter like him is you think it's hit a little harder, so your first few steps might not be as aggressive as you want them to be.

"On the second one, I was playing the hitter toward right-center, so I had a little farther to go. But I was able to read that one off the bat and get a good break on it."

A natural center fielder, Willits became acquainted with the corners during his breakthrough rookie year in 2007. He had to modify his aggression at the corners, always being aware of the center fielder's positioning, but has regained his old center fielder's mind-set and is taking it to the corners.

"Right now I feel good in all three spots, for the first time in my career," said Willits, who was set back by a hamstring strain in the spring. "My center-field mentality is to go get the baseball, and once I get there make everybody get out of the way. I'm going to be very aware of where Torii is when I'm playing left or right, but if he's shading the other way, I'm going aggressively to the ball in the gap.

"In Spring Training, [manager Mike Scioscia] came to me and said he wanted me to focus on playing center field the way I used to. In '08 and '09 I did hardly any work there. I've been trying to get better at the corners. It's a lot of fun to get a few games in center field. I feel good physically, the best I have in a long time."