Former Rookie of the Year Dontrelle Willis announced his retirement on Friday. The talented, affable pitcher saw his career derailed by injuries and decided to call it quits at age 33.
When he debuted with the Marlins in 2003, Willis was one of the most exciting young players in the game. He earned plenty of fans with his wide smile, high leg kick and prowess with the bat. Here is a look back at some of the most memorable moments of his career.
Willis was called up by the Marlins in May 2003 after he proved nearly unhittable in Double-A. Major-league hitters didn't fare much better. In his eighth start in the big leagues, Willis threw a complete game one-hitter against the Mets. Ty Wigginton's single to left field in the fourth was the only hit he allowed. Willis also had a rain-shortened shutout in his next start.
While some pitchers complain about their lack of run support, Willis routinely helped his own cause by driving in a few runs himself. In a game against the Mets in 2007, he smashed a grand slam to deep rightfield, one of nine career home runs. The homer gave Willis a seven-run cushion to work with and the Marlins won 7-3.
Willis belted another deep homer in 2011 while with the Reds. The blast broke a 2-2 tie with the Astros in the seventh inning but Willis was replaced by Nick Masset on the mound after his at-bat. Masset gave up two runs and the Reds lost the game.
Willis really could do everything. Sure, pitching was his forte, and he dabbled in batting, but he could also field his position pretty well. In this 2009 game with the Tigers, Willis dove off the mound to stop a slow roller from A.J. Pierzynski and made the throw to first while laying on his stomach. It wasn't graceful, but it got the job done.
Willis looked a little smoother here, snagging a poor throw by Votto and tagging the base to retire the runner. He could have taken a little more time with the slow-footed Brian McCann running, but that's not Dontrelle's style.
- Dan Gartland