Paul Wezner, Executive Editor
Dontrelle is going to be one of the most interesting storylines heading into the 2009 season. A former All-Star, still owed nearly $20 million over the next two seasons, and last year was a complete disaster. The upside - he has a new pitching coach in Rick Knapp known for being good with mechanics. He also had the benefit of getting virtually the entire 2008 season to revamp things, rather than trying to work through them in the big leagues. On the downside, Willis was quite simply a disaster in 2008, and he wouldn't be the first pitcher to go from being outstanding to suddenly no longer able to get a batter out. I'm hopeful that Knapp and Willis can work together and get him back on the right track, but ultimately, I'm not expecting other than blurbs in the Notes section of the daily Tigers updates, discussing mechanics, struggles, and ultimately, a release.
Mark Anderson, Managing Editor
Dontrelle is going to be a fascinating case to watch in upcoming season. Rick Knapp is being brought in as a pitching guru who is known for stressing command and control with his pitchers. Will he work magic with Dontrelle Willis? Call me a skeptic. There's a subtlety that has been overlooked by many seeing Knapp as a pitching savior in Detroit; the Minnesota Twins had a knack or a penchant for selecting pitchers in the draft that displayed good control prior to turning pro. That's not Willis. That's not Verlander, or Bonderman, or Rodney, or Zumaya, or very many of the Tigers' pitchers for that matter. Can we really expect Knapp to work miracles? Despite the horrific numbers and a still uninspiring display late in the season from Willis, some scouts saw signs and causes for optimism in his performance. His mechanics appeared to be rounding into some form of consistency, and with comfort in these new movements, he may be able to find the strike zone with added regularity. I don't think we can ever expect Willis to have pinpoint control, or really to avoid walks with any significant aplomb; but we can expect him to generally throw strikes and hopefully be 'effectively wild' around the zone. If he can do that, his secondary pitches and his velocity may be enough for him to be a league average pitcher. I'm not banking on it happening for the entire 2009 season, but we may see flashes of it, that could lead to additional optimism heading into the 2010 season.
Jason Avery, Associate Editor, Amateur Baseball
I'm not sure what's going to happen with Dontrelle Willis. The first and foremost issue with Willis is his health, both physical and mental. After last year's disaster, he needs to enter spring training with a clean slate and be ready to compete for a job.
With Edwin Jackson's acquisition, the Tigers should have the first four spots in the rotation locked up, but he needs to show the Tigers that he has his delivery back under control, because if he has a bad spring, it wouldn't surprise me if the Tigers cut him despite owing him a good chunk of change over the next two years.
Hopefully he can make it back because its not like the Tigers have all of their spots on the pitching staff locked up, and he has had success in the past.
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