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Dontrelle Willis

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Is he getting respect out the wazoo or what? lol.

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HYDE: Marlins' Willis looks special
Published June 11, 2003

There is a word for how the latest phenom in baseball looks on the pitching mound, but Dontrelle Willis can't seem to agree on it. Strange? Deceptive? Unique?

"No, that's not what I'm thinking," he says.

His motion is all moving parts and flying elbows, a twist of Luis Tiant and a jerk of Mark Fidrych -- in other words, one part pitcher, three parts flying circus. It's the high knee kick straight from "El Duque" Hernandez that surprised even Willis the first time he saw it on video.

It feels so natural to him. But it looks so ... what's the word? Funny?

"That's not it," Willis says.

Unusual?

"Not exactly," he says.

Plus, Willis is constantly in mid-twitch and half-twist. He pulls his hat on and off, on and off -- "It's so hot out there," he says explaining why -- and then tugs it down low on his face. And then twists it sideways to add to the effect.

His reason for the twisted cap is different than that of teammate Juan Pierre, whose head is so small he must c**k the bill of the hat against an ear to keep it in place. Willis turns his hat sideways as a tribute to the friends of his youth in the inner city of Oakland, though his mother moved him out of there early on.

Now the word hits him.

"Uncanny," he says. "I think that's how I think it looks. Uncanny."

His performance is equally noteworthy. In six starts, he has four wins, a 3.00 ERA and 38 strikeouts against 15 walks. In his past three starts -- all Marlins wins -- he has pitched at least seven innings and given up one total run. Just one.

It's not enough to soften the loss of injured A.J. Burnett for the season, but it takes Willis to the verge of being a conversation piece in baseball. Just this weekend, Fox Sports commentator Tim McCarver was raving how, among all the young pitchers in baseball, Willis stands out.

The only problem with appreciating Willis is South Florida has become numb to talented prospects. There has been a trail of reputed phenoms since 1997. Just look at the pitchers. Ryan Dempster. Burnett. Brad Penny. Josh Beckett.

Each came with the next-great-one tag. Dempster is backtracking in Cincinnati. The others have suffered a herk-and-jerk start to careers, short on wins and long on injuries.

But Willis has moved in with immediate impact. He was jogging in Dodger Stadium last month when veteran Dodgers first baseman Fred McGriff stopped him.

"He recognized who I was," Willis said. "I couldn't believe it. I was honored."

You get this respectful tone from the 21-year-old on his first tour through the big leagues. But McGriff said he had watched the kid pitch and wanted to pass along a word of encouragement.

"Just keep working hard," he told Willis. "You're going to do well."

Suddenly, the trade involving Willis doesn't sting as hard. It was strictly a salary dump that threw the first stretch of last season into disarray and introduced the term "payroll flexibility" from General Manager Admin Beinfest. High-priced pitchers Matt Clement and Antonio Alfonseca went to the Chicago Cubs essentially for Julian Tavarez and Willis.

Now Alfonseca is struggling. Clement (after 12 wins last season) is 3-6 with a 4.61 ERA this year.

You've got to be careful overstating where young pitchers are. The Marlins' recent history warns that. But Willis has the look of someone special, the feel of something big starting.

"He's tough and he throws strikes," manager Jack McKeon said. "That's a pretty good combination in a young kid."

Tonight, in Milwaukee, the kid tries to put some legs on his good start. He goes for his fourth straight win. And he'll do it all his way on the mound, with the nervous energy and constant body movement. Uncanny. The word fits in so many ways.
 

marlins02

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I just read that article before coming here. thats big for someone to be mentioned along with Luis Tiant and the bird man from Detroit. hopefully he'll have a longer career
 

Wild Card

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I'm just suprised the Herald wrote a positive article...! :w00t
 

Jack1

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Ya know....Josh Beckett may never get to be the ace of this team. He may have already been replaced by Dontrelle Willis. He's been great but then again these teams are pretty much facing him for the first time. We'll see what happens after he's faced teams more than once. I have a feeling though....he's gonna be good!!
Oh he'll get knocked around once in a while. That's to be expected.
 

RossInfoMan

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The Reds have faced him twice and didnt do any better the second time around.
 

snowstorm

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I saw this guy pitch in person at Cincy, and he really looks like the real deal. He's tough. This is really good news for the Marlins if he keeps it up, and so far he has.
 

Das Texan

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If I recall Josh has NEVER had this much success.
 

Marlins Bandit

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If I recall Josh has NEVER had this much success.
Actually he did, in AA. :lol

Anyway, I remember last year I took my father to a game after hyping Beckett up. My father does not like baseball much and finds it boring, but I told him we had this stud rookie pitcher who was going to dominate the game. He agreed to go and was actually excited. We got there early and the date was May 29 against the Reds. Beckett's line that game was 1IP, 7ER, 1BB, 2K.

Needless to say my Dad thought I was full of s*** and has not returned to a game with me. (Not that I blame him).
 

Das Texan

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Willis looks to be the real deal.


Teams should have a fairly decent scouting report of him by now.


The most telling sign was pointed out by Ross.


The Reds have faced him twice and have not had great success against him neither time.
 

Das Texan

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and ps...



I dont GAF about Double A ball.


But you probably knew that.
 

DurableTear

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Anyway, I remember last year I took my father to a game after hyping Beckett up. My father does not like baseball much and finds it boring, but I told him we had this stud rookie pitcher who was going to dominate the game. He agreed to go and was actually excited. We got there early and the date was May 29 against the Reds. Beckett's line that game was 1IP, 7ER, 1BB, 2K.

Needless to say my Dad thought I was full of s*** and has not returned to a game with me. (Not that I blame him).
man, that sucks...
 

Marlins Bandit

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and ps...



I dont GAF about Double A ball.


But you probably knew that.
You don't say....
 

Wild Card

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Thanx Laz...

I was hoping McKeon would put in Spooney when DW struggled in the 7th, because of that, and if he did than he also would have had that ERA under 3.00, with that 5-1 record... That's great...
 

LiLLaz#8

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But still dontrelle is the best pitcher in the team right now and he is doing good. :)
 

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