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The D-Train Chugs Down to Lakeland

The question of what to do about Dontrelle Willis after last night's walk-ridden implosion was answered quickly and decisively by the Detroit Tigers this afternoon. Willis has been sent down to Single-A Lakeland, presumably where he can work on whatever mechanical and mental issues are plaguing him, as opposed to suiting up for the Flying Tigers.

Working outside of game situations, under the supervision of coaching staff and trainers who don't have to worry about the game at hand, and away from the pressure of having to figure it out on the field, with fans and teammates expecting a competitive performance, maybe Willis can solve the dilemma of why he can't currently control where he throws the baseball.

In just 11 1/3 innings this season, Willis has allowed 21 walks, while striking out just five batters. His ERA is 10.32.

To his credit, Willis accepted the assignment willingly, instead of throwing a snit like Jason Giambi did with the Yankees a couple of years ago. But he has to be embarrassed by how he's been pitching this season, and surely knows that the organization wants him to succeed. The Tigers aren't doing this to get rid of him. They want (need) a return on the $29 million investment they made in him during the spring.

According to Jim Leyland, the leading candidate to replace Willis in Detroit's starting rotation is Eddie Bonine. In 12 starts for Triple-A Toledo, Bonine has a 9-2 record and 4.48 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 74 1/3 innings. After a stellar start to his season, however, Bonine has struggled in his last four outings, going 1-2 and giving up 18 runs in 19 innings.