Dontrelle Willis: Baltimore Orioles Sign Willis to Minor-League Deal

Zak SchmollAnalyst IMarch 20, 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 25: Dontrelle Willis #50 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the game on September 25, 2011 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Dontrelle Willis has signed a minor-league contract with the Baltimore Orioles, according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN. According to Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun, it is a "split contract that's worth $700k for bigs."

How did this happen?

After an explosive start to his career, which was highlighted by 22-10 campaign in 2005, the 30-year-old left-hander hit a wall and struggled to find his way back to the major leagues on a permanent basis.

Although last season was definitely not incredibly successful for Willis, as he posted a 1-6 record and a 5.00 ERA, one interesting statistic emerged. Right-handed hitters were having a field day against Willis, but left-handed batters only managed to hit .127 against him. In the 55 times Willis faced a left-handed bat last season, 20 of them were sent back to the dugout on strikes. Getting outs is a step in the right direction.

This type of effectiveness against left-handers convinced the Philadelphia Phillies to give him a spot as a bullpen specialist. However, that didn't work out as planned. Willis surrendered five earned runs in 2.2 innings this spring, leading to his release from the Phillies.

That brings us to the Baltimore Orioles. A few days ago, ESPN's Buster Olney tweeted that the Baltimore Orioles are looking for starting pitching. Willis might be an interesting option; $700,000 is not very much to pay for someone who was, at one point, near the top of baseball. What if he is able to recapture some of his old magic?

I'm not saying that this is a likely situation, but Willis proved last season that he can get people out (though, granted, mainly just left-handed batters). However, what if he really is on an uphill track? He probably won't be able to win 22 games again, but I will admit that it would be nice to see Dontrelle Willis make a return as a serviceable starting pitcher.

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