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
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’
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,”
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
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
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.