Dontrelle Willis’ spring training debut for the Cubs lasted all of seven pitches yesterday, as the first outing of his comeback was cut short by shoulder soreness.
He exited the field with a trainer and seemed awfully upset in the dugout, but Willis later told reporters that the injury is relatively minor and won’t stop him from continuing his comeback.
He did, however, admit how frustrating the whole thing is, telling Carrie Muskat of MLB.com:
I worked real hard to get back and finally get in a groove and this happens. I’ll overcome it. I’ve done it before. Just go back to the drawing board. … I’m just frustrated today. I really wanted to play and mix it up. It’s early so hopefully I have enough time to come back.
Willis was already a major long shot to make it back to the big leagues, because while he’s still just 31 years old he hasn’t posted an ERA below 5.00 since way back in 2006. Since then Willis has thrown 404 innings with a 5.65 ERA and nearly as many walks (243) as strikeouts (285).
A report from the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly suggests that free agent catcher Welington Castillo currently tops the Orioles’ list of potential backstop targets for the 2017 season. With Matt Wieters on the market, the Orioles lack a suitable platoon partner for Caleb Joseph behind the dish, and Connolly adds that the club has been discussing a multi-year deal with Castillo’s representatives since the Winter Meetings.
Castillo batted .264/.322/.423 with the Diamondbacks in 2016, racking up 14 home runs and driving in a career-high 68 RBI in 457 PA. His bat provides much of his upside, and Connolly quoted an anonymous National League scout who believes that the 29-year-old’s defensive profile has fallen short of his potential in recent years.
For better or worse, both the Orioles and Castillo appear far from locking in a deal for 2017. Both the Rays and Braves have expressed interest in the veteran catcher during the past week, while the Orioles are reportedly considering Wieters, Nick Hundley and Chris Iannetta as alternatives behind the plate.
The Phillies reportedly signed veteran outfielder Daniel Nava to a minor league contract, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Nava began the season on a one-year contract with the Angels, during which he slashed .235/.309/.303 through 136 PA in the first half of 2016. He was flipped to the Royals in late August for a player to be named later and saw the remainder of his year go down the drain on an .091 average through 12 PA in Anaheim. After getting the boot from the Angels’ 40-man roster in November, the 33-year-old outfielder elected free agency.
Nava is expected to compete for a bench role on the Phillies’ roster in the spring. As it currently stands, the club’s projected 2017 outfield features Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera, with precious little depth behind them. Nava’s bat is underwhelming, but at the very least he offers the Phillies a warm body in left field and a potential platoon partner for one of their younger options, a la Tyler Goeddel or Roman Quinn.