I don't know that this has ever been said by anybody, but Steve Phillips is right. Dontrelle Willis cannot take the field for Detroit until he figures his issues out. These issues have clearly been around all year. Remember before the season when he was to stay down in Lakeland to work on his control before showing up on opening day. The control has been a concern since the moment he worked out this spring, and the three-year contract is now officially a mistake.
ESPN showed Dave Dombrowski in an animated phone conversation right after today's disaster. There is no way that Willis will be on the active roster five days from now. Willis, having five years of service time, must grant permission to be sent to the minor leagues. He seems like a good guy who knows that it would be for his own good to work things out away from the active roster. Willis does have options, so he will not have to pass through waivers to go down... not to say that anybody would want to pick up the rest of this albatross of a contract.
Who takes his place?
This is the bigger concern. With Jeremy Bonderman out for a while (Will Carroll says it's possible that he could return before the end of the season, but don't get your hopes up), somebody will need to be moved into the rotation. I was going to scan the system for starting pitchers next week, but we can see that for all of the struggles in Detroit this year, Toledo and Erie are lacking alternate options.
I will rule out Zach Miner, who seems to have been moved permanently to the bullpen. The default choice will have to be Casey Fossum, who was dominant in his time with the Mudhens. As bad as he was in his first outing, he is the only player aside from Armando Galarraga to pitch well out of Toledo's rotation.
In Toledo, Virgil Vasquez has struggled and missed time with a shoulder injury. He's back and pitching somewhat better. I'm betting Fossum gets the gig for the time being, but Vasquez will be the next option, unless you think Chris Lambert is for real. Despite a 3.38 ERA, the strikeouts aren't there. There seems to be a sentiment that he isn't going to keep this up. He's probably option number 3.
Remember Jordan Tata? He's having the same problems that Willis is having... for Lakeland.
Yorman Bazardo was thought to be the team's sixth starter this year. He's not fairing much better in Toledo than he did up with the big club, with a 5.57 ERA with the Mudhens. The good news is that his walks are down, but he will still get pummeled with a promotion.
Jeremy Johnson is posting a 5.79 ERA in Toledo's rotation. Eddie Bonine rounds out the rotation, and is his typical mediocre self.
So Toledo doesn't provide much of anything, how about Erie? Rather than go through each pitcher, I will point out that the strikeout leader for the Seawolves is reliever Anthony Tomey with 33. Neither Luke French, Danny Christensen, Andrew Kown, Josh Rainwater nor Ben Fritz are capable of pitching well in Erie at this moment, let alone Detroit.
Luis Marte was skyrocketing through the system, and is now out with a sprained ligament in his elbow. To my knowledge, he's still trying to rehab it, but he won't be coming up any time soon.
There will inevitably be Rick Porcello speculation. I don't think he's close to ready at this point, and with the season on the brink of being a lost cause, I don't think this is the correct situation to rush a prospect.
In short, Fossum, Vasquez, and Lambert are the top three options. In other words, keep an eye out for the waiver wire. This could get ugly.