Dontrelle Willis was the young pitcher that every team wanted when he made his MLB debut with the then Florida Marlins 10 years ago. After being named the National League Rookie of the Year, earning a spot on the All-Star team, having a 14-6 record with a 3.30 ERA, and winning a World Series ring, who wouldn’t want Willis on their team?
That was then, and this is now.
Since his glory days with the Marlins in 2003, Willis has bounced around between the Detroit Tigers, the Arizona Diamondbacks, the San Francisco Giants, the Cincinnati Reds, and the Baltimore Orioles.
Why the sudden interest in a guy that is long past his prime?
Willis last played for the Norfolk Tides, the Triple-A affiliate of the Orioles in 2012, but it would be hard to believe that the guy pitching in the minors was once the Rookie of the Year. The left-handed pitcher went 0-3 with an embarrassing 8.53 ERA with Norfolk before announcing that he was quitting baseball.
But the Cubs seemed to see something in him during the off-season. After accepting a minor league contract in January by the team that originally drafted him 13 years ago, Willis is ready to help in Cubs in any way he can.
It’s clear that Willis’ days of being a superstar are over, as Cubs manager Dale Sveum told ESPN that, “[Willis is] coming over here to be a back-up pitcher. He’s a minor league player.” Sveum also emphasized that there is no plan for whatever the team decides to do with Willis.
Willis may be what the Cubs need in the search for a reliable bullpen. This is a team that has always lacked left-handed pitchers, and Willis may have what it takes to provide the Cubs with some relief pitching.
Although Willis is eager to jump in with his new team, there’s no guarantee that he will earn a spot on the roster. “That’s just one of those things where you have to be confident and go out there and execute your pitches and let the chips fall where they may,” he told ESPN of his situation.
So don’t get your hopes up to see Willis pitch phenomenal games like he did 10 years ago, Cubs fans. The Cubs didn’t sign him to be their ace, but to be someone who has the potential to help this team with his impressive pitching career.
With a team that has always seems to struggle with pitching, the Cubs might as well give Willis a chance at helping them out this season. After last year’s pitiful season, it’s safe to say that they have nothing left to lose.