Catching the ‘D-Train’: Phils sign lefty Dontrelle Willis for relief

David Brown
Big League Stew

The Philadelphia Phillies plan to use pitcher Dontrelle Willis out of the bullpen next season, and based on his career statistics against left-handed batters, it figures to be a great idea.

Reporter Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer said GM Ruben Amaro told reporters at the recent winter meetings that the Phillies were looking for relief help, and Willis would seem to be that. Willis hasn't been effective as a starting pitcher in five years, but his splits against left-handed batters in 2011 were as dominating as ever. Lefty batters hit .127 against him with 20 strikeouts and two walks in 60 plate appearances. For his career, Willis' line against lefties is awesome: .200/.274/.278.

He's only made three career appearances out of the pen, so it's funny that nobody had thought to use Willis (or perhaps he didn't acquiesce to being used) as a reliever until now. But he doesn't turn 30 until January, so you have to figure teams were holding out hoping he'd revert to the dominating form he showed in his first few seasons in the majors. He still might — only out of the bullpen.

In a tweet, Gelb really got speculative about how Philly might use Willis: {YSP:MORE}

Hopefully Willis becomes the first LOOGY/PH combo in baseball history. He hit .387 in 31 AB last season.

Whatchoo talkin' bout? Willis as a pinch hitter? Although, in the name of what's right with Brooks Kieschnick, using Willis as a "two-fer" would be economical, and a masterful use of the 25-man roster. The guy can hit. He's got a .281/.310/.448 career split in the second half and a .605 slugging percentage in September/October.

Further, some Philly fans on Twitter have been speculating that Amaro signed Willis because he's buds with Jimmy Rollins. It's wonderful if they're BFFs, but do you really think Rollins is going to take less money because his pal is on the roster? And would the Phillies use a roster space just so Rollins has another guy to play cards with in the clubhouse? Well, whatever works.

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