Anyone would play the game they love if they could. Dontrelle Willis is one of those players.
In early April, Willis signed with the Long Island Ducks of the Independent Atlantic League with the hope of regaining the form that once made him one of the best pitchers in the National League.
In four games for the Ducks, Willis is 1-1 with an ERA of 4.11. In 19 innings, he has surrendered 24 hits and struck out 10. Not the worst numbers in the world, but his control is a recurring problem that hasn't subsided.
Willis has given free passes to 11 batters and his WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched), a measurement of the number of baserunners a pitcher has allowed per inning pitched, is at an excessively high 1.780.
Willis' start on May 7 against the Lancaster Barnstormers was good. He pitched nearly seven innings and gave up two runs on four hits.
Unfortunately, his start against the York Revolution on May 14 was a step in the wrong direction.
The Revolution took Willis to school that night. He allowed seven runs (two earned) on nine hits. The funny thing in all of this is that the Revolution couldn't hang on to the 7-5 lead after 4.1 innings and wound up losing 8-7, according to The York Dispatch.
Willis, Scott Kazmir and now Ricky Romero have seen the best and the worst of times. But one thing you can always count on is that they will always take the mound every fifth day given the chance.
That is why these guys play at the top level of their profession. They didn't make it there by mistake, and they'll all, more than likely, make it back.
It took Kazmir nearly two years to get re-signed by a big league team.
On the other hand, Ricky Romero is at a point where it seems like there is no hope. He's had two utterly disappointing performances with Triple-A Buffalo. In his last start against the Indianapolis Indians, he walked six in 3.2 innings and will—barring some miracle—be sent down to lower levels if the results don't improve.
Willis is a distant memory to most of the baseball world at the moment and the cameras as well as reporters will not be focusing on guys pitching in obscurity. That's probably the best thing for him right now.