Jeremy Bonderman, Dontrelle Willis Putting Tigers in a Tough (No. 5) Spot

Blake VandeBunteContributor IJune 11, 2009

DUNEDIN, FL - FEBRUARY 27 :  Pitcher Dontrelle Willis of the Detroit Tigers pitches in relief against the Toronto Blue Jays February 27, 2009 at Dunedin Stadium in Dunedin, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Justin Verlander and Edwin Jackson are two of the top pitchers in the American League and each would surely get a number of votes if the Cy Young Award were to be given this afternoon. 

Rick Porcello has offered more at the age of 20 than most thought possible. He could very well win the Rookie of the Year vote.

What about the next two spots?

The Tigers have three candidates currently in the running for those final two spots.  Each guy offers some good and some bad.  Here’s the rub:

Armando Galarraga

Bad: He hasn’t won a start since April.

Bad: Since the calendar turned to May, the Tigers are 2-5 when Galarraga starts.

Bad: He has had only one good season in his career and that was his rookie season in 2008.  He’s a bit unproven.

Good: He’s pitched better recently.

Good: He’s gone at least 6.2 innings in each of his last three starts and has given up three ER in each one—all quality starts.

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Good: He’s dirt cheap.

Dontrelle Willis

Bad: In 54 innings pitched as a Tiger, he has 55 walks.

Bad: Tigers are 2-3 when he starts.

Bad: He’s owed $22 million for this year and next.

Good: He’s left-handed.

Good: He has had great years in the past, including 22 wins in 2005.

Good: Did I mention he’s left-handed?

Jeremy Bonderman

Bad: He got absolutely rocked in his first start.

Bad: He's owed $25 million for this year and next.

Bad: He has pitched exactly one big league game in the last calendar year.

Good: He's been with the Tigers since 2003.

Good: Of all of these guys, he’s the most likely to be dominant. Yeah, that’s just an opinion.

Good: He's younger than Willis and Galarraga.

Rob Neyer, one of my favorites, tackled the subject in his blog:

“This is sort of a reverse Sophie’s Choice. Meryl Streep loved both her children, and was forced to send one to a terrible fate. Jim Leyland probably can’t stand Bonderman or Willis, but he’s being forced to employ one in a key role. Let us review...

"Since the first day of the 2008 season, Willis is 1-5 with a 7.83 ERA in 54 innings.

"In the same span, Bonderman is 3-5 with a 4.78 ERA in 75 innings.

"Leyland’s Choice doesn’t seem that difficult, does it? If Bonderman’s at all healthy, he has to start Sunday against the Pirates, if only so the Tigers can see what they’ve got. If he’s even halfway-effective, it’s easy. If not, we start this sad movie all over again.”

I tend to agree.  Galarraga has pitched well enough over his last three starts that it feels like he should be safe. I feel like Bonderman is the obvious choice over Willis if he can get it figured out in the next few starts.

Either Bonderman or Willis needs to start on Sunday in Pittsburgh and I hope that Leyland opts for Bonderman. I will actually be in Pittsburgh on Sunday with loyal reader Kenny to watch this one. I would much rather watch Bonderman pitch than see Willis run his seemingly below average stuff out there again.

Either way, the Tigers are going to face a tough decision with Willis here pretty soon.  Do they keep him on board and try to fix him, or do they just cut their losses?

What do you think?  Who should continue to start?

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