The End of the Willis Experiment

On June 1, 2010 the Arizona Diamondbacks announced a trade with the Detroit Tigers. Arizona would send right-handed pitcher Billy Buckner to the Tigers in exchange for left-handed pitcher Dontrelle Willis. Given Willis’ struggles with his control problems a lot of baseball fans were left scratching their heads at the trade.

Arizona was in dire need of finding a starting pitcher who could step into a spot that they had hoped would be filled with the surgically repaired Brandon Webb. Buckner had been inconsistent at best and it was hoped that a change of scenery would benefit both players.

Willis was excited at the prospects of playing in Arizona and his energetic demeanor would be a huge plus for the struggling Diamondbacks clubhouse. In his first start as a Diamondback, Willis showed signs of brilliance peppered with control issues. Although he got the win, it wasn’t pretty.

Over the next four weeks Willis would make five starts. In those starts he went 1-1 throwing 22.1 innings allowing 24 hits and 17 runs. He struck out 14 batters and walked 27 men. His ERA in those five starts was 5.91.

In one of his last acts as Diamondbacks manager, AJ Hinch delegated Willis to the bullpen hoping the move would allow him to work through some mechanics issues. Like many other pitchers who have been assigned to the Diamondbacks bullpen, Willis struggled.

During the 14-1 loss on Saturday Willis came in and threw one inning giving up three runs on three hits. He did strike out two and didn’t walk a batter so those were positives. Obviously the positives did not outweigh the negatives of seeing his ERA balloon to 6.85.

Interim General Manager Jerry Dipoto had seen enough and the team announced that Dontrelle Willis had been designated for assignment. The Diamondbacks now have 10 days to trade Willis. If no one claims him and he passes through waivers Willis can be re-signed to a minor league contract and sent to Reno.

So as quickly as it started, the Dontrelle Willis experiment has ended in Arizona and the team will once again look within to find someone who can step in and act as the fifth starter for the remainder of the season.


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