Dontrelle Willis returns to a major league mound for the first time since last September on Wednesday night. Baseball fans should hope that the problems that plagued him last season are gone, because there are few players as enjoyable to watch play the game as Willis when he's going right.
Normally, you'd add the hope that he's gotten a handle on the anxiety disorder that forced him to the disabled list earlier this season, but, according to Willis, there never was an anxiety disorder in the first place.
"I'm a guy that shoots from the hip. I was just playing bad," Willis said. "And that happens. I'm not a doctor. I'm not trying to be a doctor. I'm trying to be a baseball player. I'm not getting into that. Even when I went on the DL, I felt fine. You can ask anybody in here. I'm not a depressed guy. Maybe I'm hard on myself, but I wouldn't have gotten here if I wasn't. But there's a fine line to knowing what you can control and what you can't control. As far as how I feel, I don't have a condition. My condition is me going out there and playing baseball and having fun. If God doesn't want me to do it, then I'll find something else to do."
When Willis was placed on the disabled list in March, he said something similar, but added that doctors saw something in his blood that they didn't like. Some disorders can be caused by a problem with brain chemistry, so that's not fishy, but if Willis says he felt fine, how is the condition serious enough that he needs to be placed on the disabled list?
When Willis went on the DL, there was talk that the Tigers were trying to get out from under his contract with the help of insurance payments because he wasn't able to play. According to a Detroit Free Press article at the time, however, such payments typically don't kick in until a player misses 60 to 90 days. Willis is back before that time, which raises the question of whether or not their insurance carrier balked at paying for Willis' condition.
All that's speculative, and perhaps Willis is just being guarded because he doesn't want to be stigmatized as having something wrong with his brain. If that's the case, though, what's he doing back in the big leagues so quickly? These are serious conditions, and Willis shouldn't put his health at further risk.
There's a lot that doesn't make sense, though, including whether or not there's a mechanism for Major League Baseball to find out if the Tigers violated the spirit of the rules.