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Notes: Reality Check for Willis


Sep 2, 2002
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Notes: Reality check for Willis
Left-hander knows how lucky he is to be in Majors
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com

Dontrelle Willis is 5-0 with a 1.04 ERA in June. (Karen Vibert-Kennedy/AP)

BOSTON -- Fantasy to Dontrelle Willis is excelling in the Major Leagues and reading that he is a lock to be on the All-Star team and win National League Rookie of the Year honors.
Reality to Willis is counting his blessings that he is alive and healthy enough to live the Major League dream.

Willis is able to live a fantasy partly because he's experienced a serious reality check.

Three days before the Marlins opened Spring Training, the 21-year-old left-hander was involved in a car wreck near his home in Alameda, Calif.

Willis lost control of his Mustang and the car flipped about six times, mangling the body of the car. Seat-belt fastened, Willis remarkably walked away from the accident unscratched. About the only things he was able to salvage were his baseball equipment and his Bible.
"That's perspective," Willis said.

Willis notes he easily could have suffered injuries to his arm, fingers or worse.

"That was three days before I was invited to big league camp," he says. "And I was in a real bad car accident."

Before the wreck, Willis had solid work habits and great motivation.

He was drafted in the eighth round by the Cubs in 2000, and he signed for $200,000.

Now he is making the Major League minimum of $300,000 and he's become an almost overnight sensation.

Willis won his seventh straight start on Thursday, beating the Mets 6-1 at Shea Stadium. His record is now 8-1 (2.26).

In the eyes of his teammates, the sky is the limit on his talent.

"You can see how he just lifts this team," Marlins manager Jack McKeon said.

He was just named Co-Player of the Week in the National League, and he makes a strong case for Pitcher of the Month. In June, he is 5-0 (1.04).

First pick visits: The Marlins hope first impressions don't scare away first round pick, pitcher Jeff Allison from Peabody, Mass. Allison and his family were invited by the Marlins to attend Friday's game at Fenway Park.

Wearing a Marlins cap, the 18-year-old star from Veterans Memorial High School was on the field while Florida was taking batting practice. Allison, who had a 9-0 record and didn't allow an earned run in 63 1/3 innings, expressed optimism that he will eventually sign.

He was the 16th overall pick and has a commitment to play for the University of Arizona if he doesn't reach a deal with Florida.

"We will wait and see what happens," the hard-throwing right-hander said. Both sides have started contract negotiations. Allison said the player he wants to meet most is Willis.

"He's done an amazing job," Allison said.

Check that bat: Former Marlin turned steady Red Sox slugger Kevin Millar hooked up with a handful of his ex-teammates at Florida's hotel in Boston after the team arrived about 1:30 a.m. Friday from their road trip in New York.

Millar mingled with Mike Lowell, Brad Penny, Braden Looper and Mike Redmond at the hotel.

A fan-favorite in Florida, Millar has become an instant hit with the Red Sox.
He maintains his sharp sense of humor and joked if Lowell homers at Fenway Park, "I'm going to X-ray his bat."

About once a week, Millar keeps in touch with several of his ex-mates. He recently ribbed Lowell about ranking among or atop the home run leader board.

"I told him, 'What's wrong with this picture?' Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield, Carlos Delgado. Mike Lowell?"

Lowell had never hit more than 24 homers in a season. He's already matched his personal high.

Pudge heating up: In three games against the Mets, Ivan Rodriguez hit a sizzling .538 (7-for-13).

Rodriguez has raised his batting average to .279 with nine homers and 35 RBIs.

"I've been hitting all right," he says. "I've been hitting the ball hard all year. Now they are falling for hits."

DH plans: Playing in their second Interleague road series, the Marlins once again are using the designated hitter.

Todd Hollandsworth was used as the DH Friday. For the other two games, the Marlins are expected to DH Lowell on Saturday and Rodriguez on Sunday.

When Lowell is used as designated hitter, rookie Miguel Cabrera will play his first game at third base, his steady position at Double-A Carolina before he was converted to left field recently.

"Don't read anything in to it," McKeon said, referring to making a connection that Cabrera would play third because of the speculation Lowell may be traded.

Cabrera, who has had the game-winning hit in three of his first six Major League games, was moved up from eighth in the order to seventh. McKeon envisions him someday hitting third, fourth or fifth.

c/o Mlb.com


Apr 2, 2003
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So Allison was at the game yesterday. You think he was impressed? lol

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