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Willis traded to D-Backs


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LOS ANGELES -- The D-backs on Tuesday acquired left-hander Dontrelle Willis from the Tigers in exchange for right-hander Billy Buckner.


Willis was designated for assignment by Detroit over the weekend. The Tigers also included cash in the deal to help offset Willis' $12 million salary this season.


"It never worked out the way we would've liked it to work out," Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said when Willis was designated. "I don't think I really need to say any more than that. At the time, we thought we were getting a guy who would come in and be a very solid big league pitcher, and it didn't work out for us. Those things happen at times. You're never happy when they do. He's put forward the effort. We know we've dealt with a lot of issues with him. It's unfortunate."


Willis, who was 1-2 with a 4.98 ERA in eight starts and one relief appearance for the Tigers this year, was signed to a three-year, $29 million contract extension by Detroit in 2007, not long after the Tigers acquired him from the Marlins in an eight-player trade that also netted Detroit first baseman Miguel Cabrera.


Buckner, 26, was originally a second-round Draft pick of the Royals in 2004 and was acquired by the D-backs in December 2007 for infielder Alberto Callaspo.


While he pitched well for the D-backs in September last season, Buckner was unable to win a spot in Arizona's rotation this spring. After a stint in Triple-A, Buckner was recalled in May and went 0-3 with an 11.08 ERA in three starts.


Willis will become the first left-hander on the Arizona pitching staff since Jordan Norberto was optioned to Triple-A a couple of weeks into the season.


Willis, 28, won a job in Detroit's rotation this spring and had quality starts in three of his first four outings. But he struggled in May, going 0-1 with a 6.52 ERA, and the Tigers elected to remove him from the roster to make room for Max Scherzer, the former D-backs right-hander who was recalled from the Minors on Sunday.


Command became a serious issue for Willis in 2008, and he spent much of the season on the disabled list with forearm and knee injuries. He started last season on the DL with what the club called an anxiety disorder.


"He was not happy," Willis' agent, Matt Sosnick, told MLB.com on Sunday night. "It was a really negative vibe for him. It's nothing that's Detroit's fault. It was a bad mesh."


Willis burst on the scene with the Marlins in 2003, when he went 14-6 with a 3.30 ERA for the World Series champions. Quick with a smile and possessor of a magnetic personality, Willis quickly became a fan favorite while winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award.


Willis' best season was 2005, when he was 22-10 with a 2.63 ERA.


For Buckner, the biggest challenge in establishing himself at the big league level at this point seems to be getting through a lineup for the third time, something he did well last September but has struggled with this year.


"It's the defining characteristic of a starter in the big leagues; he has to be able to do that," D-backs manager A.J. Hinch said on Monday. "It's a hurdle for him right now in his career. I'm not sure we're at the point yet where it's completely out of the realm that he can do it, it's just that he hasn't been able to consistently do it for us yet."



They get a AAAA guy for him.

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He got the win yesterday. And brought a lot of excitement with a head-first slide at home.


Yeah, it's good to see that he had a nice start. Obviously he still wants to work on that control (4 walks), but I bet he loves hitting in the NL again.


I still remember this monster HR that he hit in Houston back in 2005 or 2006 maybe. Good times.

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  • 4 weeks later...
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I think Blalock was opposed to coming here because he wanted playing time as a DH.


Considering the Rays DFA'd him, he doesn't have that luxury anymore. Beinfest should be trying to sign him for the rest of the year, assuming he gets released.

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