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Dontrelle Willis Has 'Anxiety Disorder'

Mar 29, 2009 – 1:38 PM
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Ed Price

Ed Price %BloggerTitle%

Dontrelle WillisDontrelle Willis had presented the Detroit Tigers with a major problem. Ever since signing a three-year, $29 million contract extension -- less than three weeks after Detroit acquired him and Miguel Cabrera from Florida -- Willis has not been able to throw strikes.

The problem continued into this spring, and now the Tigers are saying he has an "anxiety disorder."

They put him on the disabled list Sunday, which temporarily solves a conundrum. Willis had not nearly pitched well enough to be on the roster, but the only alternative (other than the DL) was to release him and eat $22 million. That's hard for anyone to swallow, especially in financially distressed Detroit.

Maybe the "anxiety disorder" was just a way to stash Willis on the DL, and eventually he can go on a 30-day minor-league rehabilitation assignment. Or maybe this is the cause of his problems.
Willis said the diagnosis came after follow-up blood tests showed something of concern. Doctors told him that the condition is treatable and that they'll start him on a regimen.

"This is not depression," Willis said. "This is something totally different. This is something where they saw something in my blood that they didn't like. I'm not crazy, though my teammates might think that I'm crazy."
Last year, Willis walked nine and struck out none in his first two starts, suffering a hyperextended knee in the second game. By June he found himself demoted to Single-A to work on his delivery and didn't get back to the majors until rosters expanded in September.

This spring, he had a 12.46 ERA with 17 hits allowed and seven walks in 8 2/3 innings. It's been a mysterious and somewhat sad decline for someone who was an All-Star in 2003 and 2005 and is still just 27.
When asked if Willis' ailment is easily corrected, [GM Dave] Dombrowski said "we understand it can be corrected" – applying no timetable to Willis' recovery.
Dombrowski was talking about the anxiety disorder. Whether Willis' pitching can ever be fixed remains a mystery.
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