Dontrelle Willis’ spring training debut for the Cubs lasted all of seven pitches yesterday, as the first outing of his comeback was cut short by shoulder soreness.
He exited the field with a trainer and seemed awfully upset in the dugout, but Willis later told reporters that the injury is relatively minor and won’t stop him from continuing his comeback.
He did, however, admit how frustrating the whole thing is, telling Carrie Muskat of MLB.com:
I worked real hard to get back and finally get in a groove and this happens. I’ll overcome it. I’ve done it before. Just go back to the drawing board. … I’m just frustrated today. I really wanted to play and mix it up. It’s early so hopefully I have enough time to come back.
Willis was already a major long shot to make it back to the big leagues, because while he’s still just 31 years old he hasn’t posted an ERA below 5.00 since way back in 2006. Since then Willis has thrown 404 innings with a 5.65 ERA and nearly as many walks (243) as strikeouts (285).
The Nationals will be many people’s favorites in the NL East this season. Not everything is looking great, however. For example, their ace — defending NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer — can’t even throw fastballs right now.
The reason: the stress fracture he suffered last August is still causing him problems and Scherzer is unable to use his fastball grip without feeling pain in his right ring finger. He will throw a bullpen session tomorrow, but will only use his secondary stuff.
Scherzer has not been ruled out for Opening Day — the fact that he is throwing some means that his timetable isn’t totally on hold — but you have to figure, at some point, not being able to air things out and use his heater will lead to some problems in his spring training routine.
File this under “man, that would’ve been cool.” Or, if you’re a Tigers fan, file it under “man, that would’ve signaled several years of misery.” However you fall on the matter, however, know that, according to Jon Heyman, the Dodgers inquired about trading for Justin Verlander over the winter.
It never went anywhere, but it’s not like it was silliness for the Dodgers to ask. As you may recall, the Tigers were reported to be willing to listen to offers on any and all players back in November, as GM Al Avila contemplated a tear-down. That never came to pass — the Tigers had a quiet offseason and are keeping the team together to make another run at the playoffs with the Verlander/Miguel Cabrera core — but it couldn’t hurt to ask.
Verlander, who is coming off a resurgent season which saw him return to form as one of baseball’s best pitchers, has 10-5 rights, allowing him to veto any trade. He’s married to an actress/model, however, owns a home in L.A., and the Dodgers are a clear contender, so there’s a good chance he would’ve allowed such a trade to happen. Heck, dude even loves pitchers batting, so a chance to do it all the time would be right up his alley.
The bigger issue likely would’ve been Verlander’s $28 million salary. The Dodgers already pay the luxury tax so taking on that commitment would cost them more than the sticker price. And, of course, if the Tigers are going to ever give up one of the best players in franchise history, it would take the motherlode of prospects to do it.
So, no, a Verlander-to-L.A. trade wasn’t ever a strong possibility. But even the slight possibility seems exciting in hindsight. It was a boring as hell offseason.