When last we checked in with Dontrelle Willis the former Rookie of the Year had been released by the Giants in April and was talking about potentially becoming a pitching coach.
Apparently nothing came of that, because now Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com reports that Willis has signed with the Bridgeport Bluefish of the independent Atlantic League and will make his debut Friday night.
Willis is still just 32 years old, but he hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2011 and hasn’t been effective in the majors since way back in 2006. Since then he has a 5.65 ERA in 404 innings as a major leaguer, with some similarly ugly numbers in the minors of late.
I still wonder what might have happened if Willis had given up pitching in 2009 or so and focused on becoming a full-time hitter, like Rick Ankiel. At this point that ship has sailed too, unfortunately, but he’s a career .244 hitter with nine homers and a .665 OPS in 447 plate appearances.
Former Angels outfielder Jabari Blash has signed a one-year deal with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball, the team announced Friday. Per the Japan Times, the deal is said to be worth around $1.06 million. Blash was released from his contract with the Angels at the end of November.
The 29-year-old outfielder has had a rough go of it in the majors, where he failed to duplicate the promising results he delivered in the minors. While he consistently batted above .250 with 20-30 home runs per season at the Double- and Triple-A level, he petered out in back-to-back gigs with the Padres and Angels and slumped toward a .103/.200/.128 finish across 45 PA for Anaheim in 2018.
The hope, of course, is that the environment in NPB will help him get a better handle on his issues at the plate — in a best case scenario, resulting in a full-scale transformation that could make him more marketable to MLB teams in the future. To that end, Blash expects to be utilized as a cleanup batter in the Eagles’ lineup and will focus on assisting the club as they make a run toward the Japan Series.