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Published: Tuesday, 6/10/2008

Tiger's Willis optioned to minors


DETROIT - One day after his horrific start against the Cleveland Indians, Tigers pitcher Dontrelle Willis was optioned to Single-A Lakeland.

Because Willis has five years of major league service, he had to grant the Tigers his permission to option him to the minors.

Willis, 26, gave up eight runs (tying a career high) and walked five in 1 1/3 innings against the Indians Monday night. He has a 10.32 ERA and 21 walks in 11 1/3 innings this year.

The Tigers traded away four minor league pitchers (and six players total) to acquire Willis and Miguel Cabrera from the Florida Marlins on Dec. 5. Shortly thereafter, Detroit signed him to a three-year, $29 million contract extension.

Visibly fighting his mechanics and his emotions Monday night, Willis will work with minor league pitching coordinator Jon Matlack and others to correct his pitching flaws.

"We don't want to put a time frame on it," general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "We just want to get him right."

The Tigers need a No. 5 starter for their rotation - someone who can pitch Saturday against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Current Mud Hens ace Eddie Bonine could be the favorite to take Willis' spot.

Other candidates include current relievers Casey Fossum and Zach Miner.

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