DETROIT (AP) — The Tigers will designate starting pitcher Dontrelle Willis for assignment on Sunday, a move they expect to end his disastrous Detroit career.
The move puts Willis onto waivers, but a team claiming him would need to pick up the remainder of his $12 million salary.
If he goes unclaimed, the Tigers have 10 days to trade him, release him or option his contract to one of their minor league teams. General manager Dave Dombrowski, though, said that he doesn't think Willis will remain with the organization.
"This gives us a chance to try to trade his contract — see if anyone would be interested," Dombrowski said after Saturday's loss to Oakland. "I'm not anticipating that we would option him out at this point, because he can say no to that, and I don't think he would have any interest in that. I think it is a situation where we have 10 days to see if someone would have interest in trading for him at a major-league level."
Willis joined the team as part of the same trade that brought Miguel Cabrera to Detroit after the 2007 season, and signed a three-year, $29 million contract extension.
The 28-year-old lefty is a two-time All-Star and a former NL Rookie of the Year who helped Florida win a World Series in his first year and then was a 22-game winner two seasons later.
But the former star who won 68 games in five seasons for the Marlins has just two victories for the Tigers. He has posted a 6.86 ERA in 24 games — 22 starts — while battling injuries and anxiety disorders.
He missed two scheduled starts this season with stomach problems, and has gone 1-2 with a 4.98 ERA in nine games.
"I know how hard he worked, and I know some of the stuff that he went through to try to get back, and it just didn't work out, so it is sad," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "You don't want to downplay that — it is sad — but Dontrelle's been in the spotlight a lot and done a hell of a job and been rewarded for that. I look back at the kids I had to release in A ball, where you shatter their dream of ever getting a shot, and that's probably tougher."
The roster move was needed to make room for pitcher Max Scherzer, who is returning from Triple-A Toledo to start Sunday's game against Oakland.
Armando Galarraga, who is missing Sunday's start after pitching 1 2-3 innings of relief on Friday, will remain in the rotation. Galarraga is 1-1 in three games with Detroit this year, including two starts, and went 4-2 in seven starts with Toledo.
"It really came down to looking at a decision between Galarraga and Willis," Dombrowski said. "We just felt at this point that we were going to give Galarraga the ball. He has pitched very well for us at Triple-A. Dontrelle has not thrown the ball as well recently as he did early in the season, so we felt we were ready to make the change."