Tracking the D-Train
Before the deal to send Dontrelle Willis to Arizona was finalized, the Marlins expressed interest in luring the D-Train back to South Florida.
Ultimately, the Tigers dealt Willis to the D-backs for right-hander Billy Buckner.
With Arizona, Willis gets a chance to remain in the rotation. Had the Marlins obtained the 28-year-old left-hander, he would have been an option to throw out of the bullpen.
The Marlins and Tigers were unable to find a match for a deal, so none was made. But could Willis eventually wind up with the Marlins? Don’t rule it out.
The scenario that could land Willis back with the Marlins is if his struggles follow him to Arizona. If he is designated again, the Marlins likely would have interest.
The Marlins are looking for reliable left-handed relief help. Renyel Pinto is on the disabled list. When healthy, Pinto has not consistently thrown strikes. Dan Meyer was designated for assignment last week, and on Tuesday he was outrighted to Triple-A New Orleans. Hunter Jones is a lefty at New Orleans, who had a brief callup.
Taylor Tankersley is the lone lefty in the bullpen. Thus far, he is doing a nice job. Ideally, manager Fredi Gonzalez prefers two lefties in the pen.
Willis has a track record and a history with Florida. Perhaps, he is more suited for a bullpen role.
During his five seasons with the Marlins, Willis set the franchise record for victories with 68. In each of his last three years with the organization, he topped 200 innings pitched. And in 2005, he was 22-10, and he remains the only player in franchise history to be a 20 game winner.
Even in his best days, Willis had an inconsistent delivery. Deception was his biggest strength when he was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2003. He also was an All-Star that year and a big reason why the Marlins won the World Series.
His high leg kick and abundance of energy made him unique. Then there was the delivery, which always was a reason many scouts and pitching coaches wondered if he could continue being successful.
From start to start, his arm slot and leg kick would vary. When a pitcher has a cleaner delivery, like Josh Johnson, it is easy to point out what is wrong and then fix it.
The Marlins thinking is Willis can be more effective as a reliever because he doesn’t have to go through a lineup three or four times. For an inning or two, pitching mechanics may not be as big a deal.
Willis grew up in the Oakland, Calif., area, and he recently bought a home near Phoenix. So he is happy to be going out West. If pitching in Arizona doesn’t pan out, returning to South Florida, where he enjoyed his greatest success, could be his next option.
— Joe Frisaro