Willis Out, French In?


Long road trips lend themselves to losing. Losing breeds restlessness. Restlessness breeds change.

The changes are already beginning in Motown. The Detroit News is reporting that Dontrelle Willis will not make his next start, which has lead to much speculation as to who will.

Zach Miner would be the leading in-house candidate, although I wondered last night if Nate Robertson’s early appearance wasn’t designed to get him on schedule to throw Saturday. Robertson’s poor performance yesterday should quash those thoughts, however.

As for Miner, the use of the righty would result in a rotation sans a left hander, and while Detroit would certainly perfer to have at least one southpaw in the rotation, results should be the only things that matter. Simply put, of the options currently on the roster, Miner would give the Tigers the best chance to win.

Another name being tossed around is that of Mud Hens lefty Luke French. French appeared briefly on the major league roster earlier this year and pitched in two games. He has yet to allow a hit in his big league career, but he walked three over his three innings. “The Tickler” (as Rogo has dubbed him), has a 4-4 record in Toledo this season, sporting a nifty 3.26 ERA with 54 strikeouts against 18 walks in 66.2 innings. Call it the restlessness of losing, but I would like to see French get that start.

In order to recall French, someone must be moved off of the active roster. Barring an unforeseen injury, that will mean that a player will either be released, traded, or sent down. Of the possible candidates to be demoted, only Armando Galarraga and Ryan Perry have minor league options, but I doubt either of them are headed to Toledo. That might mean that it’s time to pull up a chair, Mr. Illitch, you have a heaping plate-full of salary to eat.

Fans want major changes in Detroit, and with each passing poor performance, both from the starting pitching, and the offense, I find myself joining them. A move has to be made.

There remains the possibility that Dontrelle would be asked to accept a minor league assignment, much as he did last season. I’m sure they have probably already spoken with him about it. If he does, then the roster problem is solved, for now. If he declines, as his service time would allow, the Tigers would either have to try to hide him in the bullpen, or designate him for assignment and eventually release him and swallow what’s left of the $22MM on his deal.

Apart from Willis, Robertson would be the next most likely to be DFA’d. The balance of his $17MM contract doesn’t sound too yummy, but the team is getting basically nothing out of him. The Tigers have to look at this one way, and that is that the money is already spent. They aren’t getting anything in return and must move on.

All of this still only addresses one of the Tigers several holes, but at least its a start. The offensive woes must also be dealt with, and soon. Detroit still holds a two game lead on Minnesota, and sit atop the dreadful AL Central, but that lead could be gone by the weekend.

Long road trips lend themselves to losing. Rare is the team that can go on the road and win the majority of the time. Detroit has done fairly well away from the CoPa this year, but they have now lost three straight and 5 of the nine games so far on this trip.

I’d rather be a struggling first-place team than a surging fifth-place team any day. The move to remove Willis from the rotation has got to buoy the team’s confidence. To borrow a line from former Tiger Alan Trammell, “This is how it starts. This is how we get better.”

The Tigers will start Edwin Jackson and Rick Porcello the next two games to try to salvage a winning trip, which is always what I hope for when they hit the road. With the changes that are now beginning in Motown, the Tigers are taking steps towards staying in first-place.