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Dontrelle Wayne Willis (born January 12, 1982 in Oakland, California), nicknamed "D-Train", is a starting pitcher in the Detroit Tigers organization. Willis was optioned to single-A Lakeland June 10, 2008 after struggling with the Tigers.[1]

Baseball career

Willis attended Encinal High School in Alameda, California, where he played baseball for four years. He was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 8th round of the 2000 Major League Baseball Draft.

On March 27, 2002, the Cubs traded Willis (then a minor-leaguer), fellow pitchers Julián Tavárez and José Cueto, and catcher Ryan Jorgensen to the Florida Marlins, in exchange for pitchers Matt Clement and Antonio Alfonseca.

In 2003, Willis was named the National League Rookie of the Year. He went 14–6 with a 3.30 earned run average in 27 starts after earning a call-up from the Double-A Carolina Mudcats. During the postseason, Willis showcased his remarkable (for a pitcher) hitting ability by going 3-for-3 with a triple while scoring a run during Game 4 of the 2003 National League Division Series, which the Marlins won 7–6 over the San Francisco Giants to advance to the NL Championship Series. The Marlins then went on to defeat the New York Yankees in the 2003 World Series.

In 2005, he led the major leagues with 22 wins while posting a 2.63 ERA.

On January 15, 2007, Willis signed a one-year contract with the Marlins for $6.45 million, avoiding salary arbitration.

On December 5, 2007, the Marlins traded Willis along with fellow All-Star Miguel Cabrera to the Detroit Tigers for Andrew Miller, Cameron Maybin, Mike Rabelo, Eulogio de la Cruz, Dallas Trahern and Burke Badenhop. Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski then signed Willis to a 3-year, $29 million contract extension two weeks later.

In a start against the Chicago White Sox, Willis injured his left knee and departed the game after five innings. Placed on the disabled list the next day, Willis had walked nine batters while striking out none in his first two outings. Command of his pitches became a trouble spot, and Tiger manager Jim Leyland pitched him in relief for the first time, with little success.

On June 10, 2008, Willis was sent down to Single-A Lakeland, a day after a start in which he gave up 8 earned runs and 5 base on balls in 1⅓ innings pitched against the Cleveland Indians. Though Willis had enough service time in the major leagues to require his consent prior to the send-down, he agreed, saying he needed to work on his control.

Willis was recently called back to the Tigers in time for the roster expansion on September 1, 2008. Manager Leyland, however, expressed doubts Willis would be put in a game situation, stating he would likely work with pitching coach Chuck Hernandez on the side to help correct Willis' mechanics. He is scheduled to make a start September 15th against the Texas Rangers.

Playing style


Willis and Miguel Cabrera. Both were traded to Detroit on December 5, 2007.

He is known for his very exaggerated, high leg kick in his pitch delivery, a trait that has drawn comparisons to Hall of Famer Juan Marichal and former Cy Young Award winner Vida Blue, a player Willis idolized as a kid.

He bats and throws left-handed, and is considered one of the best hitting pitchers in the majors; in 2005 Willis batted .261 in 92 at bats. He holds the Alameda Little League's home run record, hitting 15 at the age of 12.

Willis can reach 95 mph with his fastball, but his usual range is 91–93 mph. He also throws a sweeping slider and a changeup. All of Willis' pitches benefit from the deception inherent in his high-kicking delivery.

Willis has traditionally been known to get off to a very fast start but break down as the season goes on. He has trouble finishing off seasons, often struggling after the All-Star break.


  • On September 27, 2006, named the Florida Marlins Hometown Hero
  • National League Rookie of the Year, 2003
  • National League All-Star, 2003 and 2005
  • Runner-Up, National League Cy Young Award 2005 (Won by Chris Carpenter)[2]
  • On September 3, 2005, beat the New York Mets to earn his 19th win of the season. With that win, Willis passed Carl Pavano's franchise record for wins in a season, established the previous year, when Pavano won 18 games.
  • On September 8, 2005, became the first Marlin ever to win 20 games in a season with a 12-1 victory over the Washington Nationals. He became just the 12th African American pitcher to win 20 games in a season, joining the "Black Aces," a club that also includes one Black Canadian (Ferguson Jenkins). He was also the first African American pitcher to win 20 games since Dave Stewart won 22 in 1990.
  • In 2005, became the third player in modern baseball history to win 20 games and collect 20 hits in the same season.
  • On September 22, 2005, batted seventh in the Marlins' lineup. No other pitcher had batted seventh since the Montreal Expos' Steve Renko did against the San Diego Padres on August 26, 1973. [3]
  • Warren Spahn Award, 2005 (presented to the best left-handed starting pitcher in the league) [4]
  • Named a starter for Team USA in the inaugural World Baseball Classic. However, both of Willis' starts in the WBC were considered subpar as the USA exited the tournament in the 2nd-group stage.
  • First pitcher to hit a grand slam since Robert Person in 2002 when he hit one off Jose Lima of the New York Mets on July 7, 2006.
  • Hit two home runs in one game against the Mets later on September 20, 2006. Oliver Perez and Roberto Hernandez were the pitchers taken deep by Willis.

Career statistics

2003 Florida 14 6 27 2 2 160⅔ 148 61 59 13 58 142 3.30 1.282
2004 Florida 10 11 32 2 0 197 210 99 88 20 61 139 4.02 1.376
2005 Florida 22 10 34 7 5 236⅓ 213 79 69 11 55 170 2.63 1.134
2006 Florida 12 12 34 4 1 223⅓ 234 106 96 21 83 160 3.87 1.419
2007 Florida 10 15 35 0 0 205⅓ 241 131 118 29 87 146 5.17 1.597
2008 Detroit 0 1 4 0 0 11⅓ 7 13 13 2 21 5 10.32 2.471
TOTALS 68 55 166 15 8 1034 1053 489 443 96 365 762 3.86 1.371



  • He can be seen in Chappelle's Show Season 2 Episode 5 along with former Marlins teammate and friend Josh Beckett
  • Having grown up in the Oakland area, Willis is a lifelong fan of the Oakland A's and Oakland Raiders.
  • In an interview with ESPN magazine, Willis stated that his favorite television show is HBO's The Wire.
  • Childhood friend is Jimmy Rollins.
  • On December 8, 2006, Willis married the former Natalee Vitagliano. They had their first child, a girl named Adrianna Rose, on April 24, 2007.

See also


External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by:
Jason Jennings
National League Rookie of the Year
Succeeded by:
Jason Bay
Preceded by:
Roy Oswalt
National League Wins Champion
Succeeded by:
A. Harang, D. Lowe, B. Penny, J. Smoltz, B. Webb & C. Zambrano
Preceded by:
Johan Santana
Warren Spahn Award
Succeeded by:
Johan Santana

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