Willis with the Cincinnati Reds in 2011.
|Long Island Ducks – No. 50|
January 12, 1982 |
|Bats: Left||Throws: Left|
|May 9, 2003 for the Florida Marlins|
|Earned run average||4.17|
|Career highlights and awards|
Dontrelle Wayne Willis (born January 12, 1982), nicknamed "The D-Train", is an American professional baseball pitcher for the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball. Willis is notable for his success during his first few years in Major League Baseball for his unconventional pitching style, which includes a high leg kick and exaggerated twisting away from the batter. Willis was named the 2003 National League Rookie of the Year.
Early career 
Growing up in Alameda near Oakland, Willis rooted for the Oakland A's as a kid. His mother Joyce was a soft ball catcher for her high school team. Willis' favorite player was former Oakland A's pitcher, Dave Stewart. Willis attended Encinal High School in Alameda, California, where he played baseball for four years. He is the son of Clinton Ostah, a former minor league player in the 1970s. In Willis' senior year, he went 12–1 with a 0.83 earned run average in 70 innings. Scouts never doubted his talents, but rather his unusual pitching mechanics. One scout even called him a "Poor man's CC Sabathia." He was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 8th round of the 2000 Major League Baseball Draft. In 2001, Willis was bumped up to the Boise Hawks of the Northwest League. He finished with 8 wins and a 2.98 ERA. Opposing hitters only batted .217 against Willis. In a Baseball America poll, several NWL managers called Willis Boise's best player.
Florida Marlins 
On March 27, 2002, the Cubs traded Willis (then a minor leaguer), fellow pitchers Julián Tavárez and José Cueto, and catcher Ryan Jorgensen to the Florida Marlins, in exchange for pitchers Matt Clement and Antonio Alfonseca. In the 2003 Spring Training, Willis reported to Jupiter. The plan was to start him with the Class-AA Carolina Mudcats. The hope was that he would make the leap to AAA, and potentially be available for a spot start in Florida or a back-of-the-bullpen job late in the season. The Marlins then sent Willis down to Carolina to work on consistency and control. Willis would dominate at Carolina; he went 4–0 with a 1.49 ERA.
2003 season 
On May 9, 2003, Willis made his Major League debut for the Florida Marlins. Against the Rockies, he pitched six innings, allowed seven hits and three earned runs, and got a no-decision.
On May 14, in a start against the Padres, Willis went five innings, allowed five hits, three earned runs, and four walks, and received his first Major League win. On June 6, Willis pitched nine innings and allowed no runs against the Mets for his first career shutout. Willis would also pitch against Tom Glavine, one of his childhood heroes. Willis would beat Glavine 1–0 against the Mets on June 16.
Willis was named Rookie of the Month for the month of June and became the first Marlins pitcher to be named Pitcher of the Month. In 5 starts, Willis went 5–0 with a 1.04 ERA. Heading into the All-Star Break in mid-July, Willis was 9–1 with a 2.08 ERA in 13 starts. He made the National League team in his first season as one of two pitchers who were injury replacements.
On July 30, Willis beat one of his childhood heroes head to head, Randy Johnson of the Diamondbacks. Willis went seven innings and allowed only one earned run. After the game Johnson left him a message saying, "Good luck, keep working hard."
After the 2003 season, Willis was named the National League Rookie of the Year. He went 14–6 with a 3.30 earned run average in 27 starts for the year. Willis's 14 wins was the most ever for a Marlins pitcher in his rookie season. During the postseason, Willis showcased his remarkable (for a pitcher) hitting ability by going 3-for-3 with a triple while scoring a run during Game 4 of the 2003 National League Division Series, which the Marlins won 7–6 over the Chicago Cubs, the team that first drafted him, to advance to the NL Championship Series. The Marlins then went on to defeat the New York Yankees in the 2003 World Series.
2004 season 
In 2004, Willis started the year by not allowing an earned run in his first three starts. He also showed great hitting skill for a pitcher. In his first 2 starts, Willis went 6-for-6 with a home run. He started the season by going 3–0. His seven consecutive hits in the regular season was 1 short of the club record held by Gary Sheffield and Preston Wilson. But by the end of the 2004 season, his record was only 10–11 and his ERA was 4.02. The Marlins went 83–79 and finished 13 games behind the first place Atlanta Braves.
2005 season 
In 2005, Willis became one of the best pitchers in baseball. He started the 2005 season by pitching two shutouts against the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies. During the month of April, Willis went 5–0 in 5 starts and allowed five earned runs in 35 innings pitched for a 1.29 ERA. He was named NL Pitcher of the Month.
On May 6, Willis became the league's first six-game winner when he went seven innings and allowed no runs against the Rockies. "I felt strong", Willis said. "I was able to stay down in the zone. That's my key, because I don't throw 100 mph. I can't live up in the zone. In all my starts I've been trying to stay down, and hopefully they swing at it."
On June 8, Willis became only the third pitcher in Marlins history to record 10 wins before the All-Star Break. On June 23, Willis became the NL's first 12-game winner when he pitched a shutout against the Braves. "He's tough", Braves Manager Bobby Cox said. "He deserves to start the All-Star game, to be honest with you. He's the dominant pitcher in the National League right now."
Going into the All-Star Break, Willis was 13-4 with a 2.39 earned run average and a 1.14 WHIP. Willis was named to the All-Star team but did not pitch in the game. Willis kept pace with his great first half after the All-Star Break. He went 9–6 and posted a 2.91 earned run average and a 1.13 WHIP the rest of the season.
Willis matched his highest win total on July 28 against the Pirates when he went 7 innings, allowed 3 hits, no earned runs, and picked up his 14th victory of the season. Willis won his-career high 15th victory on August 7 against the Reds. He went 8 innings, allowed 4 hits, and no earned runs. Willis won his 19th game of the season against the Mets on September 2, breaking Carl Pavano's franchise record for most wins in a season. (Pavano won 18 games the year before.)
On August 17, Willis held the Padres scoreless by shutting the Padres out in 9 innings. "He's as good as anybody", San Diego manager Bruce Bochy said. "We aren't the first team he has shut out this year." The win put Florida one-and-a-half games behind Houston and Philadelphia in the wild card standings.
On September 7 against the Washington Nationals, Willis pitched 6 innings and allowed 1 earned run, which gave him his 20th win of the season. He also became the first African-American pitcher to win 20 games in a season since Dave Stewart did it in 1990.
On September 22, Willis became the first pitcher to bat seventh or higher since Montreal's Steve Renko batted seventh on August 26, 1973. Willis went 1-for-4 against the New York Mets. He would go on to post a 22-10 record with a 2.63 earned run average and 1.13 WHIP. His 22 wins was the most in baseball. He also pitched 7 complete games and 5 shutouts, also the most in baseball. Willis is still the only pitcher in Marlins history to win 20 games in a season.
Willis would go on to finish 2nd in the N.L. Cy Young Award voting behind Chris Carpenter of the St. Louis Cardinals. He did, however, win the Warren Spahn Award, given to the best left-handed pitcher in each league.
2006 season 
In the 2006 season, Willis's numbers were down from his great 2005 season. Willis started the season by going 1–6 with a 4.93 ERA and didn't get his second victory of the season until June 2. He still posted decent numbers for the year and went 12–12 with a 3.87 ERA. His 12 wins were tied for the most on the Marlins. Willis also led the Marlins in complete games, innings pitched, base on balls, and hit by pitch.
On June 20, 2006, Willis earned his 50th career win in a start against the Baltimore Orioles.
2007 season 
On January 15, 2007, Willis signed a one-year contract with the Marlins for $6.45 million, avoiding salary arbitration.
In the 2007 Season, Willis went 10–15 with a 5.17 ERA and a 1.60 WHIP. Up to that point, it was his worst season of his career. At one point, Willis went 13 straight starts without getting a victory. Willis led the National League in earned runs allowed with 118. Despite his struggles on the mound, Willis would have his best hitting season in the Major League. He hit .286 with 2 home runs and 7 runs batted in. During his career with the Marlins, Dontrelle went 68-54 with a 3.78 earned run average. He won at least 10 games each season during 5 years with the Marlins from 2003–2007.
Detroit Tigers 
On December 5, 2007, the Marlins traded Willis along with fellow All-Star Miguel Cabrera to the Detroit Tigers for Andrew Miller, Cameron Maybin, Mike Rabelo, Eulogio de la Cruz, Dallas Trahern and Burke Badenhop. Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski then signed Willis to a 3-year, $29 million contract extension two weeks later.
In his debut with the Tigers, Willis went 5 innings, gave up 1 hit, and 3 earned runs against the Chicago White Sox.
In his next start, also against the White Sox, Willis injured his left knee and departed the game before even recording an out. Placed on the disabled list the next day, Willis had walked nine batters while striking out none in his first two outings. Command of his pitches became a trouble spot, and later in the season, Tiger manager Jim Leyland pitched him in relief for the first time, with little success. He was placed back into the rotation on June 3, 2008 to start in a loss against the Oakland Athletics.
On June 10, 2008, Willis was sent down to Single-A Lakeland, a day after a start in which he gave up eight earned runs and five base on balls in 1⅓ innings pitched against the Cleveland Indians. Though Willis had enough service time in the major leagues to require his consent prior to the send-down, he agreed, saying he needed to work on his control.
Willis was called back to the Tigers in time for the roster expansion on September 1, 2008. He made three starts, recording a loss and two no-decisions. Willis finished with a 0–2 record and a 9.17 ERA. In 24 innings pitched, Willis struggled with his control and walked 35 batters.
Willis was placed on the 15-day disabled list in March 2009 for an anxiety disorder after a blood test showed something of concern; he began a treatment regimen aimed at addressing the condition. Willis was taken off the disabled list and placed on the active roster May 13, 2009, when he made his first start of the 2009 season. Willis made seven starts after returning, with poor results, before being returned to the disabled list on June 19 with the same anxiety issue. In Willis' last start of the season, he was tagged with 6 earned runs allowed and 8 bases on balls. Willis finished the season with a 1–4 record and a 7.49 ERA.
In Spring Training 2010, Willis made the Tigers starting rotation.
On April 8, 2010, Willis started against the Kansas City Royals, giving the Tigers six innings and recording a no-decision. He gave up two earned runs, walking two and striking out four.
On May 30, 2010, Willis was designated for assignment by the Tigers.
During his career with the Tigers, Willis played in 24 games (22 starts). His record was 2–8 and had an ERA of 6.86 in 101 innings pitched.
Arizona Diamondbacks 
He changed back to his former uniform number 35, which he wore for the Marlins. In his Diamondback debut, he pitched six scoreless innings with four walks and three strikeouts. He got his first win as a member of the Diamondbacks.
Willis pitched four innings, giving up two runs and three hits, walking six batters on June 10. During the second inning, he cracked a finger nail and after the fourth inning, he was removed from the game due to the pain on the fingernail.
On July 4, 2010 Willis was designated for assignment and subsequently released.
In 6 games (5 starts) with the Diamondbacks, Willis went 1–1 with a 6.85 ERA in 24⅓ innings pitched.
San Francisco Giants 
On July 15, 2010, Willis was signed to a minor league contract by San Francisco and began pitching for the Fresno Grizzlies of the Pacific Coast League. On November 6, 2010, Willis was granted free agency.
Cincinnati Reds 
Willis signed a minor league contract with the Cincinnati Reds for the 2011 season. He was invited to spring training, for a chance at starter or bullpen. Willis was reassigned to the Louisville Bats as of March 27, 2011. Willis was called up on July 10 and made his Reds debut against Milwaukee at Miller Park. Willis pitched six innings, giving up two runs while striking out four and walking four. He also contributed on offense, going 1-for-2 with a double. Willis made his second start for Cincinnati on July 18, 2011, at PNC Park against the Pittsburgh Pirates. On August 3, Willis started, going six innings and hitting a solo home run but was charged with a no-decision.
On August 9, Willis went 8 innings, struck out 10 batters, and allowed 3 earned runs against the Rockies but was charged with the loss. His 10 strikeouts was the most he had got in a start since he struck out 11 against the Diamondbacks on August 14, 2007. His 8 innings pitched was the most innings he pitched since his last start with the Florida Marlins, where he pitched 8 innings against the Cubs on September 25, 2007.
On August 14, Willis went 2.2 innings and allowed 4 earned runs against the San Diego Padres. Before his start, Willis said that his forearm was still a little tight after he warmed up in the bullpen before the start.
Willis earned a quality start in 9 of his 13 starts for Cincinnati.
Philadelphia Phillies 
On December 13, 2011, Willis agreed to a 1-year deal worth $1 million with the Philadelphia Phillies. He was expected to pitch out of the bullpen. He was released on March 16, 2012, after just three Grapefruit League appearances.
Baltimore Orioles 
Willis signed a minor league contract with the Baltimore Orioles five days later on March 21. A left forearm strain suffered on April 12 led to a dispute with the organization which wanted him to be a relief pitcher. Desiring to be a starter again, he placed the blame for the injury on working out of the bullpen. In his only start after the problem was resolved, he surrendered four runs and six hits in 2⅔ innings pitched. He made four appearances with the Norfolk Tides, going 0–3 with an 8.53 ERA while allowing eight runs and ten hits in 6⅓ innings. He announced his retirement as an active player on July 2, 2012.
Chicago Cubs 
On January 4, 2013, Willis signed a minor league contract with the Chicago Cubs. He left his first game in spring training after 7 pitches, and came out of the game with a shoulder injury. The Cubs released Willis in March 2013.
Long Island Ducks 
- On September 27, 2006, named the Florida Marlins Hometown Hero
- National League Rookie of the Year, 2003
- National League All-Star, 2003 and 2005
- Runner-Up, National League Cy Young Award 2005 (Won by Chris Carpenter)
- On September 3, 2005, beat the New York Mets to earn his 19th win of the season. With that win, Willis passed Carl Pavano's franchise record for wins in a season, established the previous year, when Pavano won 18 games.
- On September 8, 2005, became the first Marlin ever to win 20 games in a season with a 12–1 victory over the Washington Nationals. He became just the 12th African American pitcher to win 20 games in a season, joining the "Black Aces" club. He was also the first African American pitcher to win 20 games since Dave Stewart won 22 in 1990.
- In 2005, became the third player in modern baseball history to win 20 games and collect 20 hits in the same season.
- On September 22, 2005, batted seventh in the Marlins' lineup. No other pitcher had batted seventh since the Montreal Expos' Steve Renko did against the San Diego Padres on August 26, 1973.
- Warren Spahn Award, 2005 (presented to the best left-handed starting pitcher in the league) 
- Named a starter for Team USA in the inaugural World Baseball Classic. However, both of Willis' starts in the WBC were considered subpar as the USA exited the tournament in the 2nd-group stage.
- First pitcher to hit a grand slam since Robert Person in 2002 when he hit one off José Lima of the New York Mets on July 7, 2006.
- Hit two home runs in one game against the Mets later on September 20, 2006. Óliver Pérez and Roberto Hernández were the pitchers taken deep by Willis.
Personal life 
Willis and his wife Natalee have two daughters, Adrianna Rose (born 2007) and Bianca (born 2008).
See also 
- Willis works on windup MLB.com
- Dontrelle Willis bio
- "Baseball Awards Voting for 2003". Retrieved 2010-07-24.
- Willis hyperextends knee as Tigers claw to 2nd win of year espn.com, 4/11/2008
- A's slip past Tigers on Cust's 11th-inning infield single espn.com, 6/3/2008
- Tigers Place Willis on DL MLB.com, March 28, 2009
- Willis ready for much-anticipated return MLB.com, May 13, 2009
- 2009 Baseball stats Baseball-Reference.com
- [mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20090618&content_id=5400414 Willis back on DL with anxiety disorder] MLB.com
- Gilbert, Steve (June 1, 2010). "D-backs get Willis from Tigers for Buckner". MLB.com. Retrieved June 1, 2010.
- "D-backs designate Willis". espn.com. Associated Press. July 4, 2010. Retrieved July 6, 2010.
- Giants ink Willis to Minor League deal MLB.com
- Dontrelle Willis Baseball-Reference.com
- Dontrelle Willis signs minor league deal ESPN
- [dead link]http://www.comcast.net/articles/sports-mlb/20110327/Reds-Willis/
- "Report: Philadelphia Phillies Sign Pitcher Dontrelle Willis to One-Year Deal".
- Phillies release Willis Philly.com
- "Orioles sign LHP Dontrelle Willis to minor league contract," Baltimore Orioles press release, Wednesday, March 21, 2012.
- Seidel, Jeff. "Willis files grievance," MLB.com, Wednesday, April 25, 2012.
- Ghiroli, Brittany. "Orioles announce D-Train has retired," MLB.com, Monday, July 2, 2012.
- "DONTRELLE WILLIS JOINS LONG ISLAND". LIducks.com. April 5, 2013.
- "ESPN - Carpenter wins National League Cy Young Award - MLB". sports.espn.go.com. Retrieved 2008-06-10.
- "The Official Site of The Florida Marlins: News: Notes: Willis elevated in order again". florida.marlins.mlb.com. Retrieved 2008-06-10.
- "The Official Site of The Florida Marlins: News: Willis garners 2005 Spahn Award". florida.marlins.mlb.com. Retrieved 2008-06-10.
- Dontrelle Willis Bio tigers.com
- Career statistics and player information from MLB, or ESPN, or Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- Official site
- Dontrelle Willis on Twitter