Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Dontrelle Willis pitches in the sixth inning of the game against the Houston Astros at Bright House Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE
6 Total Updates since March 16, 2012
11 months ago Update 1 comment
Dontrelle Willis has had a strange season. (Actually, he’s had a strange career; more on that anon.)
He signed with the Orioles after being released by the Phillies during spring training. There was a dispute between Willis and the Orioles about what his role would be; he briefly wound up on the restricted list and filed a grievance. This was eventually resolved, but Willis made just four appearances (one start) for Triple-A Norfolk, posting an awful 8.53 ERA and 2.21 WHIP.
And then, this:
Also, Dontrelle Willis apparently is considering retirement, according to #orioles, so he’s not expected to make next start for Norfolk
— Roch Kubatko (@masnRoch) July 2, 2012
“Retirement” might not be the right word for a pitcher who hasn’t had a really good year since 2006 and whose record in 78 appearances (75 starts) since then is 14-30 with a 5.65 ERA and 1.70 WHIP. Before that, he was NL Rookie of the Year in 2003 and finished second in NL Cy Young voting in 2005.
It’s surprising, in a way, that Willis didn’t try the Rick Ankiel route, as he was a pretty good hitter: .244/.287/.378 in 447 career plate appearances, with 13 doubles, six triples and nine home runs. He just turned 30 last January; maybe a team would still be willing to try this.
It would be a fascinating way to end an interesting career -- but it won't happen, because not long after the first tweet, Kubatko sent out this one:
#orioles just confirmed Dontrelle Willis has announced his retirement. The D-Train is off the tracks.— Roch Kubatko (@masnRoch) July 2, 2012
about 1 year ago Update 0 comments
Well, that took a while; to be approximate, more than two weeks.
See, the Orioles wanted Willis to pitch as a reliever in the minors, and Willis wanted to start. Willis eventually left his minor-league team; whether with permission or not, which depends on who you asked.
Here's Jerry Crasnick (via ESPN.com):
Pitcher Dontrelle Willis has agreed to drop his grievance against the Baltimore Orioles after the team granted his request to pitch as a starter in the minor leagues, his agent told ESPN.com.
Willis, 30, will report to extended spring training in Florida this week and try to build up his innings and work his way to Baltimore, agent Matt Sosnick said. The Orioles signed Willis in late March after he was released by the Philadelphia Phillies late in spring training.
What's a little odd about all this is that Willis probably has a better shot at returning to the majors as a relief pitcher. I'll bet a dollar he figures that out, eventually.
about 1 year ago Update 1 comment
Just to summarize quickly, because otherwise I would have to excerpt a large Jerry Crasnick story and that's not kosher, even on the Internet and also I really like Jerry Crasnick, so please read his story that I will link to in a minute ...
1. Dontrelle Willis used to be really good.
2. Then Dontrelle Willis was really terrible, perhaps because of an anxiety disorder.
3. Then Dontrelle Willis sort of wasn't so terrible any more.
4. Then Dontrelle Willis signed with the Phillies, but got cut during spring training.
5. Then Dontrelle Willis signed with the Orioles, who thought he might become a good left-handed relief pitcher.
6. Then Dontrelle Willis, unhappy about being a minor-league reliefer rather than a minor-league starter, left his minor-league team.
Which is where we are now, with the complication that Willis and his agent say Willis had permission to quit, while Orioles general manager Dan Duquette says Willis went AWOL.
Got all that? Okay, here's Jerry Crasnick:
Pitcher Dontrelle Willis is filing a grievance against the Baltimore Orioles, alleging that the club placed him on the restricted list and is preventing him from signing with another organization even though he left the Orioles' Triple-A affiliate with the consent of a team official.
Willis received permission from Tripp Norton, Baltimore's director of baseball administration, before leaving the Norfolk Tides last Wednesday, said agent Matt Sosnick.
As long as Willis remains on the restricted list, he can't sign with another club without Baltimore receiving compensation. Sosnick said Duquette has not returned his phone calls, and that the Orioles are holding Willis "hostage" by refusing to discuss the matter.
"Dan has said nobody gave Dontrelle permission," Sosnick told ESPN.com. "Dan knows that's not true. I can't imagine making this kind of deal over something so trivial. We're talking about a minor league player that Baltimore has relatively no financial investment in whatsoever. It's the dumbest thing ever and a waste of everybody's time. Dan has had a thousand chances to ratchet this down a notch, and all he's done is ratchet it up."
Really, this is juicy agent-on-GM stuff and you should read Crasnick's whole story, especially for the payoff off at the very end, which Crasnick wisely delivers with a straight face, no commentary necessary for the discerning fan.
It's hard to see this whole story ending well, but then I never expected to see Dontrelle Willis in a major-league rotation again, and that did happen last summer. So we'll just have to wait for the next act in this ongoing drama. It seems certain there will be one.
about 1 year ago Article 1 commentContinue
about 1 year ago Update 0 comments
Well, apparently it's not taken long for Willis to get another shot. Unofficially, anyway:
Dontrelle Willis is signing a minor league deal with the #Orioles, says a baseball source— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) March 20, 2012
As things stand now, the Orioles are exceptionally short of left-handed relief pitching, with Troy Patton and Zach Phillips the only apparent contenders for the one or two available bullpen jobs. Now, Patton in particular seems plenty good enough to pitch in the majors, and Phillips has some ability, too. But bullpen depth is rarely a terrible thing, especially if Willis is willing to return to the minors.
Perhaps even as a starter. He did have some success in that role last summer, first in Class AAA and later with the Cincinnati Reds. He's still only 30 and he's still got a pretty good arm. And so he'll keep getting chances to rediscover his control, so mysteriously lost a few years ago.
about 1 year ago Update 0 comments
It always seemed like something of an odd fit: Dontrelle Willis, a reclamation project if there's ever been one, and perennial National League East champion Philadelphia Phillies.
Turns out, there wasn't much of a fit at all. Matt Gelb:
The Phillies have released Dontrelle Willis, the enigmatic lefthander who was attempting to revive his career as a reliever.
He was plagued by ineffectiveness and arm soreness during the first four weeks of camp. That, despite only three Grapefruit League appearances, was enough for the Phillies to pull the plug on the experiment.
Willis was working on a one-year, $850,000 contract ... but non-guaranteed, which means now the Phillies don't owe him one thin dime. A lot of hullabuloo, it turns out, for a lefty reliever who recorded eight outs during spring training.
Considering Willis's history and his relative success in the minors last season, he'll probably get a chance to pitch somewhere and I wouldn't bet good money that we won't see him in the majors again, someday.