For a fleeting moment last year, I thought he was back. In front of a decent crowd on a comfortable mid-May Tuesday evening, Dontrelle Willis pitched 6 1/3, giving up one hit in a 4-0 win over the Rangers. He was the toast of baseball for the evening, as Baseball Tonight and every other show had thought his issues were behind him. Weeks later he was back on the DL, and since then, Tigers fans and management have wondered if that May moment was just a flash in the pan.
I once remarked within my inner circle of friends, that the Tigers should have offered all 25 members of the 2003 roster to the Marlins for Willis following that horrific 2003 season. Willis had just thrown a rookie season of 3.30 ERA and 14 wins, only 29 more than the Tigers had won throughout the entire season. Alas this trade never came to fruition, but it was a moment of time that marked the importance of one player at one time in his career. Willis would go 54-48 in his following seasons with the Marlins, leading to the eventual trade with the Tigers.
This Spring Training, the results on the field have so far been positive about Dontrelle’s future on making the Tigers squad. His hefty contract has made the issue a bit more pressed for management, but he seems to be finding enough of the strike zone that he’s making the decision more difficult for Tigers brass regarding the ’10 rotation. For making nearly $30 million in a three-year span with the Tigers, Detroit baseball fans are hoping for more than a singular May win to be the D-Train’s Detroit legacy.