Reds-Brewers Preview

The “D-Train” is on track to resume his major league career.

Dontrelle Willis is expected to be called up by the Cincinnati

Reds to start against the Milwaukee Brewers in the finale of a

four-game series Sunday.

His return to a big league mound for the first time in just over

a year is the latest step in a star-crossed career.

Willis appeared headed for superstar status when he broke into

the majors as a 21-year-old in 2003 with Florida. The left-hander

won the NL rookie of the year award while helping the Marlins to an

improbable World Series victory over the New York Yankees.

Willis’ best season came in 2005, when he led the majors with 22

wins and five shutouts, and had an NL-best 2.63 ERA. He would

finish second for the NL Cy Young Award behind St. Louis’ Chris

Carpenter.

After posting at least 10 wins in each of his first five years

with Florida, Willis was traded to Detroit in 2007. His career

would then start to fall apart.

While with the Tigers, Willis was 2-4 with a 6.86 ERA and 92

walks in 24 games over two-plus seasons. He spent time on the

disabled list in 2008 with a knee injury and twice in 2009 with a

recurring anxiety disorder. The Tigers dealt him to Arizona in June

2010, and he was cut after walking 27 in 22 1-3 innings.

Following a brief stay in the Giants’ organization, Willis

joined the Reds last winter, but failed to make the team this past

spring after giving up 11 bases on balls in 9 2-3 innings while

posting a 9.31 ERA out of the bullpen.

An extended stay with Triple-A Louisville seems to have helped.

Willis went 5-2 with a 2.63 ERA, struck out 67 and walked only 20

in 75 1-3 innings.

“It’s been a long road for him, and he’s earned his way back

here. We didn’t give it to him,” manager Dusty Baker told the Reds’

official website.

Willis takes over the spot in the rotation left when Edinson

Volquez was sent to Louisville for the second time this season on

Thursday to address his control issues.

Some pressure may have been taken off Willis’ shoulders now that

the Reds have a chance to earn a split. Jay Bruce homered leading

off the 10th inning, scoring the first of five runs to lift

Cincinnati to an 8-4 win Saturday.

The Reds (45-46) cleared the air with a team meeting before the

game, and it paid immediate dividends. The defending NL Central

champs had dropped 13 of 20, but trail co-leaders Milwaukee and St.

Louis by only three games.

“I told my guys, you’ve got to think positive, think lucky and

keep thinking positive and lucky and good things will happen,”

Baker said.

Bruce finished with three hits, and his 17 homers and 34 RBIs

against Milwaukee are his most against any team. He’s 8 for 18

(.444) with two solo homers against Randy Wolf (6-6, 3.72 ERA), who

will try to avoid losing his third straight start for the

Brewers.

The left-hander was tagged for season highs of seven runs and 10

hits Tuesday in a 7-3 loss to Arizona.

Wolf has been dismal while losing his last two starts against

the Reds, allowing nine runs and 19 hits in 11 innings. Overall,

though, he’s 10-4 with a 3.44 ERA in 21 career starts versus

Cincinnati.

Milwaukee (48-43) is again not expected to have Ryan Braun in

the starting lineup due to a calf injury. Braun, who will also miss

Tuesday’s All-Star game after being the NL’s leading vote-getter,

will be re-evaluated before the Brewers begin a four-game series in

Colorado on Thursday.