Results tagged ‘ Dontrelle Willis ’
What’s up with him?
The Orioles signed Dontrelle Willis to a minor-league contract in the spring of 2012, with the idea that he might become a useful left-handed spot relief pitcher. Willis did not take well to that idea; he was hit hard in three relief appearances; got hurt and was put on the disabled list; and then left the team, saying that he wanted to be a starting pitcher. Eventually, the Orioles acquiesced; he made one start and pitched poorly; and then, before his second start, retired.
Anyone who saw Dontrelle Willis pitch over the last couple of seasons had to realize that Willis would have to completely rebuild his pitching motion if he wanted to be successful. He couldn’t lift his leg as high as he did in his prime without toppling over backward and he couldn’t whip his left arm the way he used to. I think he realized that he would have to do a lot of work and didn’t want to do that just to be a left-handed reliever. After he made a start and realized just how far away he was from effectiveness, he decided he didn’t want to work that hard and quit.
Before you conclude that Willis is a lazy, pampered athlete who doesn’t want to work hard, keep this in mind. Why would Willis want to do the work to keep on pitching? (1) He wants to experience individual success. Well, he’s done that, winning 22 games in 2005, winning the Rookie of the Year award, and making two all-star teams. (2) He wants to be on a championship team. Well, he’s done that, as the 2003 Marlins won the World Series. (3) He needs the money. He’s made over $40 million in his career, so unless he’s pulled a Jack Clark and frittered away his earnings he should be set for life. So that leaves (4), he just loves baseball. If he doesn’t love playing baseball, and doesn’t need to spend the effort to play it well, who are we to complain that he’s not?
Update — Willis signed a minor-league contract with the Cubs organization for 2013. I don’t know if he’ll be used as a starter or as a reliever.
There’s something happening here with the Tides and, by extension, the Baltimore Orioles. Saturday night, the Tides used utility infielder Carlos Rojas to perseve a one-run lead in the bottom of the tenth inning at Toledo. Rojas allowec the tying run to reach second with one out but retired the last two Toledo batters to earn a save.
Usually, using a nominal postion player as a pitcher is reserved for desperation times, when there are no other pitchers available, or for mopping up in a blowout loss. The confusing part is that, by all indications, there should have been other pitchers available. The Tides are carrying twelve pitchers, which generally leaves a seven-man bullpen. And the previous day had been a 5-1 Tides win, which normally wouldn’t tax the bullpen. And, in Saturday’s game, the Tides used two relief pitchers — Oscar Villareal for one inning and Miguel Socolovich for three.
Making matters more confusing is that the Tides started a pitcher who had been used exclusively in relief up to this point — Rich Rundles. In the normal five-man rotation, Jason Berken would have been the normal starting pitcher, so starting Rundles would indicate that Berken was injured or that he was being held for a promotion. But Berken started Sunday. And Carlos Rojas, a proven non-hitter, might be more valuable as a pitcher. So what is going on with the Tides’ pitching staff? I asked the Tides’ media relations department for an explanation.
As far as Rundles’ starting is concerned, it was a reaction to Dontrelle Willis. You may remember that the Orioles signed Willis was signed in the offseason, intending to make him a left-handed spot relief pitcher. After a couple of ineffective appearances, Willis went AWOL and refused to return unless the Orioles allowed him to serve as a starting pitcher. The Orioles eventually acquiesced and sent him to extended spring training to get him in condition to serve as a starting pitcher. Willis was scheduled to make the Saturday start, and Jason Berken was preparing to make the Sunday start. On Saturday, however, Willis was incapacitated by the flu. Rather than mess with Berken’s preparations, the Tides decided to use Rich Rundles as a spot starter.
As far as the bullpen is concerned, two Tides — Brad Bergesen and Steve Johnson — are converting starters. Bergesen had pitched 2 2/3 innings two days before; Johnson 3 innings three days before. Neither was available to pitch. The Tides also decided that Zach Phillips and Pat Neshek were unavailable because they had pitched in the two previous games; that seems a little specious to me because Phillips had thrown exactly two pitches in his outing the previous evening. However, the Orioles and Tides agreed that they would not use Neshek and Phillips. That left two pitchers in the bullpen. Oscar Villarreal pitched one inning — requiring 44 pitches to get through the inning, giving up five runs. Miguel Socolovich relieved Villarreal; the Tides came back with a five-run eighth to take 7-6 lead but the tiring Socolovich — who threw 48 pitches in his three innings — gave up the tying run. After the Tides took the lead in the top of the tenth, another pitcher was required — and Carlos Rojas, who was probably the best available choice, came in. And preserved the win, earning a save.
All baseball games are unique, but some have more in common with other games and some have less in common with other games. Last night’s Norfolk home opener seemed to be in the latter category, a 1-0 game filled with oddities that I don’t remember seeing.
There were four throwing errors in the game, three by Gwinnett third baseman Joey Terdoslavich and one errant pickoff throw by Norfolk relief pitcher Dontrelle Willis. One of Joey T.’s errors was a throw from near the third-base foul line that was a little short and the first baseman couldn’t handle it cleanly. But both of his other throws and Willis’ wild pickoff attempt were absolutely terrible throws, nowhere close to first base. Willis’ throw ended up in the dugout; the runner on first was awarded third base; and he scored the only run when the batter singled.
There was also one play that, in a work of fiction, would be the pivotal point. The G-Braves put runners on first and third with no one out in the fourth inning. With a 3-2 count on Chris Marrero, Tides’ pitcher Jason Berken stepped off the rubber, looked to third base, and then snapped a throw to first, picking off the runner. Then Berken fired a called third strike past Marrero, turning a 1st-and-3rd with none out to runner on third with two out. Unfortunately for the Tides, they failed to take advantage of the possible momentum swing and the Braves continued to intermittently threaten.
Yesterday, the Orioles optioned three players to Norfolk, reassigned five others to the minor-league camp, and essentially placed two other players on the disabled list. With just over a week to go before the Tides’ season opener, I can make some guesses about who will be on the Tides when they play at Charlotte on April 5.
The Orioles optioned pitchers Brad Bergesen and Jason Berken to Norfolk, and announced that both will be used as starting pitchers. I expected both to be with the Tides, and Bergesen to be a starter. I am surprised that Berken will be used as a starter, as his only major league success was as a relief pitcher. This tells me that Berken isn’t really in the Orioles future plans, and that they’re just hoping that lightning will strike.
The Orioles also sent Dontrelle Willis and Armando Gallaraga to minor-league camp. I’d be surprised if Gallaraga is in the organization and not with the Tides, and in the Tides’ starting rotation. He has 518 innings of major-league experience and hasn’t been below AAA since 2007. Willis, on the other hand, is being groomed as a left-handed spot reliever. The Orioles may want to stash him at Bowie so he can be more easily available for a quick call-up.
John Hester was sent to minor-league camp, which can’t have been much of a surprise after going 0-for-14 in spring games. I’d have to say he’s headed for Norfolk. Even if Caleb Joseph is heading for Norfolk, there’s still a need for another catcher. Taylor Teagarden is recovering from injury and Ronny Paulino is the only other backup catcher in camp, so there won’t be another catcher coming down. That means Hester should be here.
Matt Antonelli was optioned to Norfolk, and Steve Tolleson and Scott Beerer were sent to minor-league camp. That makes for some interesting possibilities. Antonelli, Ryan Adams, Josh Barfield, and Josh Bell have all been second basemen or third basemen in their careers. There’s no way you can get all four players into the lineup at second, third, and DH. Even assuming that Jai Miller and Scott Beerer end up in Norfolk, that still leaves the third outfield spot uncertain. I still think L.J. Hoes will start the season in Bowie, so that might mean that either Adams or Bell will get a look as a corner outfielder. Tolleson is a career utility player who would be welcome in Norfolk, playing six games a week at five positions.
Brian Roberts was put on the Disabled List, which means that Robert Andino will start the season as the Orioles’ second baseman and that Ryan Flaherty will make the Orioles as the utility infielder. Zach Britton was also put on the Disabled List, which probably slots Brian Matusz into the Orioles rotation but doesn’t really clarify Chris Tillman’s status.
- The Indians claimed Rick VandenHurk off waivers from the Blue Jays. He’ll probably be with their AAA Columbus Clippers affiliate.
- The Orioles signed Dontrelle Willis to a minor-league deal after he was released by the Phillies. The plan is to turn him into a left-handed relief specialist. He didn’t pitch much or well with the Phillies in their spring, so most likely will start the season in Norfolk or Bowie to work out the kinks.
- The Orioles also signed Josh Barfield, the former Padres and Indians second baseman. Barfield played with Lehigh Valley last season, and hadn’t been signed until now. I would assume Barfield was signed to play at Norfolk, and may mean that Ryan Adams will see time at other positions.