The former Rookie-of-the-Year and Cy Young runner-up, Dontrelle Willis has been up and down in his major league career.
He started out in 2003 as a 21-year old rookie with the Florida Marlins after being drafted in the eighth round in 2001 by the Chicago Cubs. He won 14 games and posted an ERA of 3.30.
The sophomore jinx hit him in 2004 as he was 10-11 with a 4.02 ERA.
His best year by far was 2005 when he tossed five shutouts on his way to a 22-10 record with an excellent ERA of 2.63. He led the National League in shutouts and in complete games with seven. He finished second to St. Louis’ Chris Carpenter even though having more wins and a lower ERA.
He never recaptured the magic of 2005 winning only 22 games in ’06 and ’07 combined. After the 2007 season he along with Miguel Cabrera went to the Detroit Tigers in an eight-player trade.
In his three years in the motor city, D-Train was just 2-10 with an ERA of near 7.
In the 2010 season he started with the Tigers and was traded in June to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Billy Buckner. He was released by Arizona in July and was picked up by the San Francisco Giants and granted Free Agency without ever pitching for them.
It was said that he suffered from panic attacks that perhaps nearly destroyed his career.
During the off season he was offered a Minor League contract by the Reds and was more than happy to sign it. He almost made the team as a reliever out of Spring Training but was sent to Triple A affiliate Louisville for fine tuning.
In 13 starts with Louisville, Willis was 5-2 with a 2.63 ERA in 79+ innings of work. When Reds Opening Day starter Edinson Volquez was sent down for the second time this season in early July, Willis was brought up to take his spot in the rotation.
He has been all they hoped for. He has started seven games for the Reds, and although he has yet to win his first game, he has five quality starts. His only ‘bad’ start was his last outing against the San Diego Padres when he lost for the third time, giving up 6 H and 4 ER in 4+ innings.
He was injured during that start and was later evaluated and determined that he could make his next start. He is scheduled to start Saturday against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
He could easily have been 6-1 as the bullpen let him down on several occasions. He has kept them in every game he has started except the game against the Padres.
He has a good attitude, has had his delivery modified by pitching coaches Ted Power at Louisville and Brian Price of the Reds.
It is hard to believe with all he has been through that he is just 29. He still has a lot to give to the Reds.