Dontrelle’s Dilemma

By Tom Gage
Updated: March 31, 2009

LAKELAND, Fla. — Dontrelle Willis is suffering from anxiety disorder — an ailment which ranges, according to the National Mental Health Information Center, “from feelings of uneasiness to immobilizing bouts of terror.”

Willis didn’t know he was afflicted — doesn’t feel any different than he’s felt every day — but as of Sunday, he’s been placed on the 15-day disabled list and does not know when he’ll next pitch again.

When asked what Willis’ treatment will be, Dave Dombrowski, president and general manager of the Tigers, said, “I’m not at liberty to discuss that. But in order to place someone on the disabled list, it has to be an accepted medical condition — or else the commissioner’s office would not accept it. And they’ve accepted this.”

At the same time as the Willis move, the Tigers placed pitcher Joel Zumaya on the 15-day DL because of a sore right shoulder and have returned Rule 5 pick Kyle Bloom, a left-handed pitcher to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Neither of those moves, however, was a surprise.

Willis’ condition was — even to him.

“I’m always an amped-up guy, but they’ve seen something in my blood work they didn’t like seeing,” he said after a discussion with team doctors. “And if they don’t like it, I don’t like it.

“I’ve been feeling good, but we have to fix it before it gets worse. … I want to be OK. I have kids. I just want to be fine.”

When asked if Willis’ ailment is easily corrected, Dombrowski said only that, “We know it can be corrected.”

In other words, Willis’ stay on the disabled list at this point is open-ended. No one knows how long it will last.

“It’s unfortunate,” Willis said. “But I’m just more concerned about my health. If your health is not right, you have to take care of it. When a doctor speaks up, I’m going to listen.”

Under contract through 2010, with a salary of $10 million this year and $12 million next year, Willis said he expects to pitch again for the Tigers.

“Most definitely,” said the left-hander, who missed most of last year because of a combination of problems. “But I want to pitch for this team healthy.”

When asked if it was difficult to be suffering from an ailment he doesn’t understand, Willis replied, “No, because I have people around me who do. That’s why they get the big bucks, too.”