At 30 years old, Dontrelle Willis announced his retirement on Monday after his latest attempt to return to the big leagues in the Baltimore Orioles organization hit a wall.
Nearly two years ago Tuesday, our own Kevin Kaduk chronicled the sad story of the then 28-year-old Willis' downfall up to that point in his tumultuous career. Unfortunately, in the 24 months that followed, the D-Train never could get all the way back on the track, lasting only 13 starts with the Cincinnati Reds in 2011.
Willis landed a minor-league contract with the Philadelphia Phillies over the winter, but lasted only three appearances in spring training. He then made headlines after their parting for not being aware that his contract was not guaranteed. One week later, the Orioles scooped him up and assigned him to Triple-A Norfolk to begin the season.
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That's where Willis again made headlines for something other than his pitching. After three relief appearances, he left the team in dispute over his role as a reliever. After the Orioles placed him on the restricted list, Willis filed a grievance (and then withdrew it two weeks later) and basically disappeared for two months.
So yes, towards the end of his wild, crazy professional baseball career, Dontrelle's behavior in and around the game was nearly as erratic as his actual performances.
Upon his return to Norfolk in mid-June, Willis quickly worked his way back into the fold and actually made a start for them on June 28, but only lasted 2 2/3 innings and allowed four runs. That will now be his last official appearance. He finished the season with an 8.53 ERA over 6 1/3 innings.
It's unfortunate Dontrelle Willis never could write the end to his career that he desired. That said, he had a beginning that few other can claim, or really even dream about. At that highest point from 2003- 2005 with the Marlins, there were few better and no one more entertaining to watch on the mound. We'll thank him for those memories, and we certainly wish him well in the next phase of his life.
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