CLEARWATER, Fla. -- We all remember what Dontrelle Willis was.
A special arm, and a special personality. He was a 22-game winner, and he was fun.
"Even the scouts loved watching him," one big-league scout said.
Somehow, it all went wrong.
Who knows how? Who knows why? Maybe the "anxiety disorder" the Tigers cited today when they put Willis on the disabled list is part of the reason.
What we do know is that Willis is still only 27 years old. If his arm is healthy -- and he has insisted this spring that it is -- it's plausible that he could someday be a successful major-league pitcher again.
"It's probably all still there," said Drew, who remembers Willis from the National League, back when Willis really was something special.
I won't ask you to feel sorry for Willis, who has made nearly $19 million and has another $22 million coming as part of his contract with the Tigers. I won't ask you to feel sorry for the Tigers, who never should have given him that contract.
But this is a sad story, because the old Dontrelle was so much fun and was so good for the game. That Dontrelle hasn't been there, not this spring, not last year and not even in his final years with the Marlins.
Somehow, it all went wrong, to the point where the Tigers absolutely could not have opened this season with Willis on their roster. It's not just that he couldn't help them. It's that he was so bad that keeping him around would have sent a message that contracts mattered more than winning.
The two choices seemed to be sending him to the minor leagues (and getting him to accept the assignment), or releasing him and eating the money.
The Tigers don't have to make that decision now. It's not clear how soon Willis will even try to pitch again. Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski told reporters in Lakeland that the doctors will decide the course of action.
Maybe they can help. And maybe this sad story still can have a happy ending.