Posted on: June 4, 2010 10:28 am
Edited on: June 4, 2010 10:30 am
Next week we'll ask whether Stephen Strasburg can transform the Nationals.
Today we're asking whether Strasburg can help change the image of the National League. Because right now, when a guy is struggling (or just plain lousy) in the American League, the common thought is that he might be better in the NL.
Or didn't you read about this week's Dontrelle Willis trade?
Willis has a career National League ERA of 3.78. He has a career American League ERA of 6.86. And instead of saying that his career went downhill after the 2007 trade that sent him from the Marlins to the Tigers -- and, in reality, had started to go downhill in his last two seasons in Florida -- the story when he was traded to the Diamondbacks this week was that maybe a change back to the NL would help.
Nice thought, except the National League scouts we talked to wanted nothing to do with Willis, not at the major-league minimum (which is all the Diamondbacks will be paying).
"I was really surprised that Detroit was fortunate enough to trade him," said one scout who watched Willis this season. "That's a great deal for Detroit, because they get a player [Billy Buckner] back.
"We'd take a chance on a pitcher, but not him. If my general manager would have called, I'd have said no. If he can get you five innings, then he's had a heck of a night. His command and control are just not very good."
In 22 career starts for the Tigers -- that's all they got for their $29 million -- Willis had just two games where he got an out in the seventh inning, and none where he finished seven innings. He averaged 5 1/3 innings a start this season.
Sounds perfect for a team with the worst bullpen in the majors (7.51 ERA).
"Is he going to start for them?" the scout asked. "Well, good for him. Whatever."
With that kind of report, how can we do anything but feature Willis' Diamondback debut in this weekend's 3 to watch:
1. Roy Halladay ended May with a perfect game. But if you take the whole month, Halladay's May ERA of 2.15 ranked just fourth among National League starters, behind Ubaldo Jimenez (0.78), Mat Latos (1.54) and Matt Cain (1.81). And in his first start since the perfect game, Halladay goes up against Latos, in Padres at Phillies, Friday night (7:05 EDT) at Citizens Bank Park . This is probably as good a time as any to remind you that since his perfect game, Mark Buehrle has won just five of his 24 starts. And since his perfect game, Dallas Braden is 0-3 in four starts, with a 4.13 ERA. If Halladay starts slipping, then maybe Armando Galarraga should thank Jim Joyce, after all.
2. The Diamondbacks sent out a mass e-mail on Thursday, filled with positive notes about how well their team is doing. That's a team that just finished an 0-9 road trip, a team that has lost 10 in a row, a team that got walked-off each of the last four games, a team that hasn't scored a run in 31 innings. Sounds like the kind of team that can turn Willis into a winner -- or at least pretend that he's winning. We'll see, when he faces Jhoulys Chacin, in Rockies at Diamondbacks, Saturday night (8:10 ET) at Chase Field .
3. It really is too bad that the Nationals didn't have Strasburg debut this weekend, perhaps on Saturday night against fellow San Diego native Mike Leake (who already has four major-league wins and has helped his team into first place). Instead, they chose to hold him back for Tuesday, against a Pirates offense that might more closely resemble the International League lineups he has been carving up in Syracuse. Oh well. We'll make do with Luis Atilano on Saturday, and Craig Stammen, in Reds at Nationals, Sunday afternoon (1:35 EDT) at Nationals Park . Remember, it's the last game the Nationals will ever play (at least for now) without Strasburg on their roster.
Posted on: April 8, 2010 5:37 pm
Edited on: April 8, 2010 9:57 pm
Yes, Dontrelle Willis was fortunate to be facing the Royals today, and fortunate to give up just two runs while allowing nine baserunners in six innings.
But here are two reasons for the Tigers to be encouraged by Willis's first big league start since June:
1. Willis didn't fall apart after a terrible first few batters. At one point in the first inning, his pitch count was 16 pitches, 4 strikes. But from that point on, he threw 72 pitches, 50 of them for strikes.
2. Willis's fastball, unimpressive early on, got better as the game went on. He was 85-88 mph early, then threw several pitches at 93 mph later, according to mlb.com's Gameday.
Nate Robertson, the guy Willis beat out for the final spot in the Tiger rotation, said yesterday that the big difference he noticed in Willis this spring was an ability to keep innings and games from quickly unraveling. He showed that today against the Royals.
Robertson starts for Florida against the Mets tonight, and the Marlins seem overjoyed to have him.
"He's a left-handed presence in the rotation," owner Jeffrey Loria said. "He's a guy who knows how to win ballgames."
You can bet that Tiger fans will be comparing Robertson to Willis all year, just as Phillies fans will compare Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, and just as Yankees fans will compare the output of Curtis Granderson and Nick Johnson with the output of Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui.
Willis's final line today was 6 innings, 7 hits, 2 runs, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts, and no decision in the Tigers' 7-3 win. Robertson takes the mound in about an hour and a half.
Posted on: March 30, 2010 1:45 pm
Edited on: March 30, 2010 3:48 pm
The Marlins have acquired left-hander Nate Robertson from the Tigers, allowing both teams to set their opening day starting rotation and ensuring that Dontrelle Willis will return to the big leagues as the Tigers' fifth starter.
The Tigers got minor-league left-hander Jay Voss in the deal, and will also pay a large chunk of Robertson's $10 million contract.
Robertson, originally drafted by the Marlins and then traded to the Tigers in January 2003, joins a starting staff that will also include Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez and Chris Volstad. Clay Hensley had been leading the competition to become the fifth starter, but the Marlins were never comfortable with using him. Robertson will be the only left-hander in the rotation.
The Tigers had similar concerns about the end of their rotation. Robertson was having a good spring (2-1, 3.66), but the Tigers weren't convinced that he can be successful without the velocity he had earlier in his career. They had settled on Jeremy Bonderman as their fourth starter (behind Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer), and preferred Willis over Robertson for the fifth spot.
Willis is a one-time 22-game winner (with Florida in 2005), but he has just one win in two years since coming to the Tigers in the Miguel Cabrera trade. He has had troubles with command and anxiety issues, and at times the team seemed to be on the verge of simply releasing him.
Willis pitched significantly better this spring, (2-0, 1.20), although he still had eight walks in 15 innings. Scouts were impressed when he hit 93 mph on a radar gun in a start last week.
Voss is a 22-year-old reliever who pitched in Double-A last year, and was in the Marlins' major-league camp this spring.
One side note: The last few winters, Robertson was the only player on the Tiger roster who made his year-round home in Michigan. A Kansas native, he had settled down in Canton, Mich.
In speaking to reporters after the trade was made, Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said Robertson told him, "My heart is in Detroit."
The Detroit Free Press reported this week that Brandon Inge has decided to move to Michigan year-round. Inge and his wife Shani lived in the Ann Arbor area for several years, but later moved to South Carolina.
There's no guarantee Inge will be with the Tigers past this season. His four-year, $24 million contract runs out at the end of the 2010 season.
Posted on: March 23, 2010 1:56 pm
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Charlie Manuel is hoping for a World Series rematch.
So is Joe Maddon.
The reason is the same. The rematch is different.
Manuel said again this morning that he'd love for the Phillies to play the Yankees again this October, because he'd like another chance at the team that beat the Phils in six games in 2009.
Maddon's response? If the Rays get back to the World Series, he wants the Phillies, because he'd like a chance to beat the guys who beat him in five games in 2008.
"I'd love it to be Charlie and the Phillies," Maddon said. "I would absolutely love it. First of all because I respect Charlie so much, and like Charlie so much, but also because it's like unfinished business. I still remember standing in the clubhouse after the last game, talking to our team, and it just didn't seem right.
"It was destiny, and they screwed up our destiny. We have to rewrite destiny against the Phillies."
The Rays and Phillies are playing today in Clearwater. The Yankees and Phillies played yesterday in Clearwater.
Two World Series rematches. And maybe, if one manager or the other gets his way, one World Series preview.
People who have talked to the Yankees say while they expect Phil Hughes to win the job as fifth starter, manager Joe Girardi likes Sergio Mitre, enough so that Mitre can't be completely ruled out. Joba Chamberlain, who has been portrayed as the other main candidate for the job, is apparently headed for the bullpen. . . . The Tigers, meanwhile, seem to have settled on Jeremy Bonderman as their fourth starter, with the fifth job to be decided between Nate Robertson and Dontrelle Willis. Willis hit 93 mph on the radar gun yesterday, but Robertson is still thought to have a slight edge. The plan is that whichever of the two doesn't open in the rotation would go to the bullpen as a long man.
Posted on: March 29, 2009 1:53 pm
Edited on: March 29, 2009 1:58 pm
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- We all remember what Dontrelle Willis was.
A special arm, and a special personality. He was a 22-game winner, and he was fun.
"Even the scouts loved watching him," one big-league scout said.
Somehow, it all went wrong.
Who knows how? Who knows why? Maybe the "anxiety disorder" the Tigers cited today when they put Willis on the disabled list is part of the reason.
What we do know is that Willis is still only 27 years old. If his arm is healthy -- and he has insisted this spring that it is -- it's plausible that he could someday be a successful major-league pitcher again.
"It's probably all still there," said Drew, who remembers Willis from the National League, back when Willis really was something special.
I won't ask you to feel sorry for Willis, who has made nearly $19 million and has another $22 million coming as part of his contract with the Tigers. I won't ask you to feel sorry for the Tigers, who never should have given him that contract.
But this is a sad story, because the old Dontrelle was so much fun and was so good for the game. That Dontrelle hasn't been there, not this spring, not last year and not even in his final years with the Marlins.
Somehow, it all went wrong, to the point where the Tigers absolutely could not have opened this season with Willis on their roster. It's not just that he couldn't help them. It's that he was so bad that keeping him around would have sent a message that contracts mattered more than winning.
The two choices seemed to be sending him to the minor leagues (and getting him to accept the assignment), or releasing him and eating the money.
The Tigers don't have to make that decision now. It's not clear how soon Willis will even try to pitch again. Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski told reporters in Lakeland that the doctors will decide the course of action.
Maybe they can help. And maybe this sad story still can have a happy ending.
Posted on: November 21, 2008 2:40 pm
The idea of the Red Sox trading Julio Lugo to the Tigers for Dontrelle Willis has been on the table for a while, and officials familiar with the talks said it's still out there this week. Both teams are said to be calling around, checking carefully into both players to see whether it would be worth swapping one bad contract for another.
The Red Sox have little interest in keeping Lugo, who they signed to a $36 million, four-year contract two winters back (he's owed $18 million over the next two years, with a vesting option for 2011). The Tigers owe Willis $22 million over the next two years, and some people in the organization believe there's very little chance that he'll bounce back from his disastrous 2008 season.
The Tigers do need a shortstop, and if they can be convinced that Lugo can play the position adequately, they may go ahead and try to make the deal.
Posted on: July 17, 2008 5:31 pm
Edited on: July 17, 2008 7:27 pm
It's no real surprise to see Tony Clark going from San Diego back to Arizona. Clark is from San Diego, but he has lived for years in the Phoenix area and very much wanted to get back there. The Diamondbacks needed help off the bench, and also the veteran presence that Clark brings, and the Padres have reached the point where they realize they don't have a chance this year.
There were those in baseball who thought Arizona would be a possible destination for Mark Teixeira, should the Braves trade him. Like Clark, Teixeira has a home in Arizona, and could possibly have been interested in staying there long-term. But Arizona didn't want a full-time first baseman who would take at-bats away from Chad Tracy and Connor Jackson. The Diamondbacks were encouraged by the 25 runs they scored in the final four games behind the All-Star break, and convinced themselves that at this point their offense doesn't need the big-time boost from someone like Teixeira.
It's also no surprise to see the Phillies trade for a pitcher, even though Oakland's Joe Blanton was far from their first choice. The Phils were looking for a difference-maker, and it's hard to see Blanton being that kind of pitcher. The one plus is that he normally pitches a lot of innings, and the Phillies might score enough runs to help him succeed.
Other talk circulating in the baseball world today:
-- The Mariners continue to be open for business, and there has been some talk that they would even be open to dealing young shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt. But one official who has spoken to the Mariners said he was told Betancourt was one of four players the M's wouldn't talk about, with the other three being Ichiro Suzuki, Jeff Clement and Brandon Morrow.
-- The Rays' interest in Rockies closer Brian Fuentes has been talked about for days, but a baseball official said Tampa Bay has also talked to Oakland about Huston Street. The Rays are also in on Casey Blake, who could well be traded by the Indians.
-- Even after trading for CC Sabathia, the Brewers are well-positioned if they want to make another deal. Matt LaPorta was the key piece in the Sabathia trade, but one scout said LaPorta was no better than the fourth best prospect on Milwaukee's Double-A Huntsville club. "(Third baseman Mat) Gamel is an impact guy, and so is (shortstop Alcides) Escobar," the scout said. "And (outfielder Michael) Brantley has a chance to be an All-Star. For a lot of people, including us, LaPorta is going to be no better than an average everyday player."
-- One other Milwaukee player to watch is shortstop J.J. Hardy. The Blue Jays are very interested in him, and some people believe that if Dustin McGowan hadn't gotten hurt, a deal could have been made (the Brewers aren't interested in Burnett). There's still a chance, those same people believe, that the Jays could pursue Hardy this coming winter.
-- The Tigers haven't been saying very much about Dontrelle Willis, who was sent to Class A Lakeland more than a month ago (and more recently was in Detroit to have his knee examined). The word is that in Willis' workouts in Lakeland, his control hasn't been any better than it was in Detroit. People familiar situation said Willis has been doing a lot of running, trying to take off some of the weight he has added.
-- While the White Sox are telling people that they're satisfied with their team and unlikely to make any significant moves, there are those who wonder whether they'd deal shortstop Orlando Cabrera, who will be a free agent at the end of the year. Whether he's dealt or not, it's unlikely Cabrera will be with the Sox next year, because rookie Alexei Ramirez is expected to take over at short, his natural position.
Some e-mails, and some quick responses:
From Josh T.: "Did you even watch the (All-Star) game? Did you see any other pitcher pitch? Did you see the defense on each side? All you can talk about is the freakin' Yanks and Boston"
Let's see, the All-Star Game was at Yankee Stadium, the MVP plays for Boston. No, I can't figure out why anyone would have written about the Yankees and Red Sox. You're right. Next time, I'll be sure to feature someone who had a bigger effect on the game. Cristian Guzman, maybe?
From Jason: "You're an idiot to suggest that CC Sabathia isn't an All-Star because he didn't make this year's team. I could make a team out of the players not on this year's (All-Star) roster and beat them in a game."
Sorry, but if you don't make the All-Star team, you're not an All-Star. If you don't believe me, then try to collect that All-Star bonus in your contract without being named to the team.
From Scott: "I don't understand why you included the pitcher from Kansas City (Zack Greinke) in your (On The Block), other than for filler."
We included Greinke because the Royals are willing to talk to other teams about him this month. No, he probably won't be dealt, because it would take a huge package to get KC to actually make a deal, but we thought it was interesting that they're even willing to discuss him.
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Tags: A's, A.J. Burnett, Alcides Escobar, Alexei Ramirez, Blue Jays, Brandon Morrow, Braves, Brewers, Brian Fuentes, Casey Blake, CC Sabathia, Diamondbacks, Dontrelle Willis, Dustin McGowan, Huntsville Stars, Huston Streets, Ichiro Suzuki, Indians, J.J. Hardy, Jeff Clement, Joe Blanton, Mariners, Mark Teixeira, Mat Gamel, Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley, Orlando Cabrera, Padres, Phillies, Rays, Red Sox, Royals, Tigers, Tony Clark, White Sox, Yankees, Yuniesky Betancourt, Zack Greinke
Posted on: June 10, 2008 4:10 pm
Edited on: June 10, 2008 4:21 pm
The Tigers had to do something with Dontrelle Willis, that much was clear. They couldn't keep starting him, not after Willis showed again Monday night that he just can't throw the ball over the plate. So today, with Willis' permission, the Tigers optioned their struggling left-hander to Class A Lakeland.
"We don't want to put a time frame on it," general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "We just want to get him right."
Willis has been so bad (a 10.32 ERA and 21 walks in 11 1/3 innings) that releasing him might have been a possibility, except that the Tigers just signed him to a three-year, $29 million contract after acquiring him from Florida last December. With that kind of money invested in him, they had little choice but to do whatever it takes to turn him around.
It's not clear whether Willis will pitch for the Class A Flying Tigers right away. Dombrowski said they want their minor-league pitching coaches (Jon Matlack and Joe Coleman) to work with Willis on his mechanics.
As recently as 2005, Willis was a 22-game winner who finished second in the National League Cy Young voting. His numbers have progressively gotten worse since then, but this year's fall-off has been even more dramatic. Willis had trouble throwing strikes in the latter part of spring training, and he didn't get better when the season began. In an 8-2 Tiger loss to Cleveland Monday night, Willis walked five and allowed eight runs in just 1 1/3 innings.
Willis is still just 25 years old.
The Tigers didn't decide on who will replace Willis in the rotation. They're considering several options, but manager Jim Leyland said Eddie Bonine (9-2 with a 4.48 ERA at Triple-A Toledo) is a strong possibility.