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Tigers pitcher Dontrelle Willis, who has struggled with his control this season, has a 1-4 record and 7.49 earned-run average. ((Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press))

The Detroit Tigers will have a couple of players out of the lineup for the foreseeable future.

Pitcher Dontrelle Willis was placed on the 15-day disabled list Thursday with an anxiety disorder, while slumping outfielder Magglio Ordonez was told by manager Jim Leyland to take a seat.

Willis was the 2003 National Rookie of the Year and a 22-game winner in '05, but is 1-4 with a 7.49 earned-run average this season while struggling with control problems that have intensified in recent starts.

He walked eight in 3⅔ innings in a loss at Pittsburgh on Sunday and has walked 18 in 11 innings over his last three starts.

Willis believes the problems are mechanical, not mental.

"I've talked to everybody and I don't feel like I have any nervousness out there," Willis said. "I've got so many moving parts that if one's out of whack from time to time it happens.

"This is not the first time I've had control problems, but I've been able to overcome it, so I'm not worried about it."

Not a mechanical problem: trainer

Willis has been his usual gregarious self during a three-game interleague series against the St. Louis Cardinals, constantly joking with teammates. He even punctuated many of his comments about going on the DL with laughter.

The team believes the cause of Willis's repeated control problems is deeper than mechanical issues. Trainer Kevin Rand said Willis has been dealing with anxiety since spring training.

"What we're trying to do is put Dontrelle back in a position where Dontrelle can perform," Rand said. "As it stands right now, it's not the Dontrelle Willis you expect to be pitching, but we see it's in there.

"We've just got to get to it."

Willis went on the DL hours before an interleague game against the Cardinals, who activated Khalil Greene from the 15-day disabled list for social anxiety disorder.

Greene was not in the lineup, as the team planned to ease him back into competition.

Ordonez is a six-time American League all-star with a .312 career average and seven 100-RBI seasons, plus an AL batting title with a .363 average in 2007.

But you wouldn't know it based on his performance so far in 2009.

'Just let him breathe a little bit'

Batting primarily third, he was hitting .273 with two homers and 22 RBIs entering play Thursday.

Leyland said he talked to Ordonez about his declining production a few weeks ago, so the benching shouldn't come as a total surprise. The veteran skipper felt he had to make a move with the offence in a tailspin, scoring three or fewer runs in seven straight games.

"Right now he's beating himself up," Leyland said. "Just let him breathe a little bit and see what happens. I really feel bad for him, but I've got to do something."

Leyland said Ordonez didn't know what was wrong with his stroke.

"He's just befuddled right now," the manager said. "I don't think he can figure it out, I don't think anybody can figure it out right now. If anybody can, I'm open for suggestions."

Ordonez didn't want to discuss his situation after the Tigers beat the Cardinals 6-3 without him Thursday night.

"No, nothing," he said. "I've got nothing to say."

With files from The Associated Press