By Paul White
UPDATE, 7:30 p.m. ET: The Diamondbacks announced they have traded for Dontrelle Willis and cash, sending right-hander Billy Buckner to the Tigers.
“We are pleased to add Dontrelle to our pitching staff,” Arizona GM Josh Byrnes said in a statement. “He has shown he can overcome adversity, and we hope that he can help solidify our pitching staff.”
Buckner, 26, has a 6-11 record and 6.25 ERA in 36 games (21 starts) in four Major League seasons with the Kansas City Royals and D-backs from 2007-10. The right-hander had a 0-3 record and 11.08 ERA while striking out 11 and walking 5 over 13.0 innings in 3 starts for the D-backs this season. Buckner was Arizona’s organizational Pitcher of the Year in 2009 after going 9-3 with a 3.32 ERA and a .239 opponent’s batting average in 16 starts for Triple-A Reno. Overall, Buckner has compiled a 49-42 record and a 4.20 ERA in 141 games (123 starts) in the minor leagues after he was the Royals’ second-round selection in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft.
Dontrelle Willis says good-bye to Detroit and perhaps hello to a new team.
Few players have as many peers rooting for them as Dontrelle Willis.
The gregarious left-hander is a common clubhouse topic among friends and former teammates. “How’s Dontrelle doing?” they’ll ask reporters. “How’s his stuff look? He doin’ OK?”
Everyone, it seemed, roots for Willis. That probably had something to do with him making Detroit’s rotation this season, a choice the Tigers probably sensed was doomed from the beginning, says Detroit News columnist Lynn Henning.
That’s pretty intense support for a guy who’s won two major league games in the past three seasons, has a 12-23 record and 5.73 ERA over the past four.
And, apparently, there’s still legitimate interest in Willis after the Tigers designated him for assignment over the weekend. There was a strange coincidence that the Tigers announced they were cutting him loose the same day we learned of the death of actor Gary Coleman, whose “Whatcha talking about, Willis” line from the sitcom Diff’rent Strokes has been the most overused cliche surrounding Dontrelle’s career.
The Arizona Republic has Willis’ agent confirming the Diamondbacks have interest in Willis, who can be claimed on waivers. The Tigers have until June 9 to trade or release Willis or allow him to be claimed and taken.
As for the Marlins, who traded Willis to Detroit in 2006 along with Miguel Cabrera, interest is mixed, according to the Miami Herald, which headlined the item “Talking About Willis.”
Willis is just 28, and memories linger from his 22-7, 2.63 season for the Marlins in 2005 that made Willis and his infectious smile an instant commercial success, but he hasn’t had a winning season since and has dealt with anxiety disorder.