Brewers manager Ron Roenicke just said that Dontrelle Willis has decided to retire.
A decision that, on the baseball merits, probably should’ve happened a long time ago given that he hasn’t pitched in the bigs since 2011 and hasn’t pitched effectively in the bigs since 2006.
But you can’t really fault a guy for keeping at it if people keep giving him a chance. And people have given D-Train a chance. He was signed by the Brewers last month. Before that he did stints of various lengths with the Giants, Angels, Orioles, Cubs, Phillies, Reds, Dbacks, Tigers and Marlins. He also pitched for the Fresno Grizzlies, Long Island Ducks and Bridgeport Bluefish in independent ball. It may simply be a case of him more or less running out of teams. Heck, this isn’t even his first time retiring.
Of course there was a time when Willis was considered to be the next big thing. And for a while he was a big thing. Between 2003 and 2006 he was 58-39 with a 3.44 ERA, which in those days amounted to an ERA+ of 121. He won 22 games in 2005, made the All-Star team and finished second in Cy Young voting. Then, in December 2007, he was traded by the Marlins to the Tigers alongside a fellow named Miguel Cabrera for Burke Badenhop, Frankie De La Cruz, Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller and Mike Rabelo. That ended up being one of the dumber and more lopsided trades in baseball history even with Willis falling off a cliff. With the idea that Willis would be an ace for years to come it was practically obscene.
And now he’s done. We think. He has said he was done before. But maybe this time it’ll stick. Who knows. All we know for sure is that, for now, one of baseball’s more interesting people is hanging it up.
MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez with the news:
Willis last pitched in the Majors in 2011 with the Reds, posting a 5.00 ERA in 73.2 innings over 13 starts. It has been a long and He signed with the Phillies for the 2012 season, but he was released during spring training. Shortly thereafter, Willis signed with the Orioles on a Minor League deal. He and the O’s organization disagreed on his usage, with Willis wanting work as a starter. He suffered a forearm strain, and subsequently announced his retirement in July.
The Cubs signed Willis to a Minor League deal in January. He threw seven pitches in a spring training appearance before leaving with a shoulder injury. The club ultimately released him, allowing him to sign with the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League. Willis, now 31 years old, posted a 2.57 ERA in 87.2 innings over 14 starts in the independent league.
Beware, Gatorade coolers of the Atlantic League:
Zambrano joins quite a famous assemblage of toasted talent on the Ducks roster, as Dontrelle Willis and Vlad Guerrero are already there. Really, though, if Zambrano actually pitches well and doesn’t have any Zambranoesque meltdowns, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that he’ll get some looks for pitching-starved teams this summer.
Not that avoiding meltdowns is particularly likely.
This is not a deep thought or anything, but I really do want to know what it is about Dontrelle Willis that makes teams keep signing him. The Orioles are the latest.
He’s had two really good seasons. One of them was nine years ago, the other seven. He had one more useful season for the Marlins after that. Since he left Florida following the 2007 season he’s 4-15 with a 6.15 ERA while walking 7.1 hitters per nine and allowing 9.3 hits per nine.
I know he’s a lefty and lefties are supposed to live forever, and by all accounts he’s a great guy to have around. But there has been nothing — literally nothing — positive to be seen in his pitching. No indication whatsoever that he can help a ball club.
Yet despite this he’s able to find a job a mere day after getting cut late in spring training. Not to sound all Heymany here, but how is that possible while Johnny Damon, for example, can’t get a job? Or Roy Oswalt? Or any number of dudes?
I mean, good for Willis. But this vexes me so.
The Phillies released Dontrelle Willis last Friday after he allowed five runs on five hits and four walks over 2 2/3 innings this spring, but it didn’t take him long to find a new home.
As first reported by Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com, Willis has latched on with the Orioles on a minor league deal. Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun adds that it’s a split contract worth $700,000 for time spent in the majors.
Willis posted a 5.00 ERA and 57/37 K/BB ratio over 75 2/3 innings with the Reds last season, but the 30-year-old had a .127 batting average against and a 20/2 K/BB ratio against left-handed batters. The Phillies inked him to a one-year, $850,000 deal over the winter with the idea of using him as a left-handed specialist, but they quickly threw in the towel after he dealt with arm fatigue and was showing diminished velocity this spring. It’s not clear whether the O’s intend to use him as a starter or a reliever.