Dontrelle Willis' high leg kick might be on the fast train to Angels Stadium.
According to Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com, the Los Angeles Angels and the former All-Star pitcher agreed to a minor league contract Sunday. Willis will report to the club's Triple-A affiliate, the Salt Lake Bees, this week with hopes of returning to the majors.
D-Train coming to Anaheim? #Angels have agreed to terms on a Minor League deal with Dontrelle Willis, who will report to Triple-A Salt Lake.— Alden Gonzalez (@Alden_Gonzalez) August 4, 2013
The 31-year-old lefty has not made an appearance in MLB since the 2011 season. In 13 starts with the Cincinnati Reds, Willis went 1-6 with a 5.00 ERA and 1.52 WHIP. He then spent time with the Philadelphia Phillies and the Baltimore Orioles before announcing his retirement last July.
The retirement didn't stick for long, however, as Willis was back in baseball with the Chicago Cubs during spring training. Shoulder tightness led to his abbreviated stop with the Cubs, as he lasted a total of seven pitches in one start before being released.
Since his outing in Chicago, Willis' shoulder has recovered, and he's been impressing on the independent circuit. He's made 14 starts with the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League, posting a 2.57 ERA, 1.38 WHIP and 5.3 strikeouts per nine innings, per Gonzalez.
Willis will look to join an Angels pitching staff that has been among the worst in baseball this season. Los Angeles currently ranks 27th in MLB with a 4.32 ERA and has allowed opposing teams a slugging percentage of .413, seventh-worst in the game.
The Angels' rotation has been slightly stronger than their bullpen, but it's unclear which role they'll be looking for Willis to fill. While 202 of his 205 career appearances have come from starting, teams have viewed him as a potential long reliever in the past.
Either way, it's possible this chance with the Angels could be his last. Once one of the game's most flamboyant and recognizable faces—thanks in large part to that aforementioned leg kick—Willis' career proved to be a fast burner.
He burst onto the scene with an All-Star season as a rookie and then won 22 games in 2005 en route to an All-Star appearance and second place in the Cy Young Award voting. But Willis wore out his welcome with the Florida Marlins two years later, leading to a trade to the Detroit Tigers, which would begin his downfall.
Struggling with his control amid weight gain and a mechanical change, Willis made just 24 appearances with Detroit over two-plus seasons. He allowed almost two baserunners per inning and saw his ERA skyrocket before being sent to the Arizona Diamondbacks, where he lasted just six appearances.
For his career, Willis has a 72-69 record with a 4.17 ERA and 1.43 WHIP.
Neither the Angels nor Willis have confirmed the move at this time.
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