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Notes: Willis seeks perfection

By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com Ticket information



NL Rookie of the Year Dontrelle Willis tosses during Saturday's game vs. the Cardinals. (Rick Silva/AP)




JUPITER, Fla. -- Having a year of Major League experience under his belt didn't calm Dontrelle Willis' nerves any Saturday afternoon.

If anything, the Marlins' 22-year-old left-hander was more uneasy than he was last spring as a promising minor league prospect.


"Today I was a lot more nervous than last year," said Willis, an All-Star and Rookie of the Year in 2003. "Last year, I just wanted to play."


This spring, Willis wants to perfect how he pitches.


Willis was subdued in the clubhouse before facing the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium. He was thinking of how he would approach his first spring outing. He was thinking about how he would set up batters and work his pitch sequences to a lineup that includes All-Stars Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen.


Willis then went out and was impressive, giving up one run on three hits with five strikeouts and a walk in three innings.


Dontrelle Willis / P

Height: 6'4"

Weight: 200

Bats/Throws: L/L


"I threw strikes with all my pitches," Willis said. "That was key."


In the first, he worked out of a bases-loaded jam by striking out Rolen looking and getting Ray Lankford to pop out to short. He struck out the side in the third.


His lone mistake was leaving a first-pitch fastball up to Emil Brown, who homered to start the second inning.


"I got one up and he hit the heck out of the ball," Willis said. "Hats off to him. As far as pitch sequences, and what-have-you, I think I did good. I was keeping the ball down. When I was missing, I was missing down."


Still fresh in Willis' mind is last spring when he gave up five runs to the Cardinals. So allowing one run in three innings didn't bother him.


"I just like to get people out to get innings in," Willis said. "That's the main focus, to get as many innings under your belt as you can."


Marlins manager Jack McKeon, who doesn't put too much emphasis on Spring Training results, says he wants Willis to be aggressive.


"I want him to go after hitters like he did before," McKeon said. "He did a pretty good job."


Ramon Castro / C

Height: 6'3"

Weight: 225

Bats/Throws: R/R


Castro delivers: Ramon Castro, the third-string catcher the past two seasons, is eager to make the most of his opportunity to start.


McKeon gave him plenty of work Saturday.


Castro caught all nine innings and delivered the decisive two-run double in the ninth in the Marlins' 4-2 win.


McKeon says he has used catchers nine innings in the spring before. He then gives them a day off. On Friday, Mike Redmond was in line to go nine innings. But his legs were a bit tired so he left midway through the game against the Orioles.


"Skip asked me in the sixth inning if I want to go nine," said Castro, who has two homers and five RBIs in the spring. "I said, 'yes.' And I got my chance to win the game."


Castro worked well with Willis, who shook off one sign in three innings.


Aguila impressing: Minor league outfielder Chris Aguila had an RBI triple in the Marlins' ninth-inning rally Saturday.


"That kid has caught my eye," McKeon said. "I like the way he does everything. He comes through in the clutch."


McKeon says young players have to be salesmen.


"You sell yourself by doing it," McKeon said.


Aguila, who would likely start the season in Double-A if he doesn't make the squad, says he is just seizing his chance.


"When the opportunity comes, I want to make the most of it, and just play," Aguila said.


B Game win: The Marlins took a 3-2 win over the Mets Saturday morning in a B Game in Jupiter.


Derek Wathan went 1-for-3 with three RBIs for Florida.


Trevor Hutchinson started and was effective in two scoreless innings, giving up one hit and one walk.


Nelson Cruz was credited with the win and Kevin Cave collected the save.


"I'm pleased with it," said Hutchinson, the organizational pitcher of the year in 2003.


Because of inactivity since last season, Hutchinson said: "It felt like the plate was the size of a pea."


Benitez's first appearance: Closer Armando Benitez will appear in an exhibition game for the first time this spring on Monday, when the Marlins face the Expos in Jupiter. Josh Beckett will start the game.


Benitez, signed a free agent, has been easing back into condition.


Unlike a number of Marlins who had an active off-season, Benitez didn't throw much the past few months. He has been going through his regular bullpen sessions.


Sunday's pitchers: Carl Pavano makes his Spring Training debut Sunday against the Orioles at Roger Dean Stadium. Baltimore is starting Kurt Ainsworth. Also scheduled to pitch for Florida are Chad Fox, Mike Neu, Matt Perisho and Toby Borland.


Jack on WSJ Report: McKeon will be a guest on the "Wall Street Journal Report" with Consuela Mack Sunday. The show airs at 6:30 a.m. on WTVJ NBC 6 in Miami/Fort Lauderdale and at 9:30 WPTV NBC 5 in Palm Beach County.


Hot prospects: Four Marlins minor leaguers have been listed among the Top 100 prospects in baseball, according to Baseball America. The highest-ranked prospect is outfielder Jeremy Hermida, the left-handed hitter who draws comparisons to Shawn Green. Hermida is rated 28th. Pitcher Jeff Allison is the 44th selection, while first baseman Jason Stokes is 51st and left-handed pitcher Scott Olsen is 67th.


Korean coach: First baseman Hee-Seop Choi isn't the only Korean in Marlins camp.


Cheol Young Park, a coach for the LG Twins, is an invited guest in Spring Training to work with the minor league coaches.


Park says Choi is comfortable with his new team.


"All the players, the manager and the coaching staff are giving him a lot of confidence," Park said. "The players are treating him real good."


Joe Frisarois a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Some good notes:


Jeremy Hermida #28, Jeff Allison #44, Jason Stokes #51, Scott Olsen #67. Got to be excited about that - those are all solid prospects with some ceiling and could contribute. Also, Aguila is impressing the coaching staff - that is another good sign that this farm system is getting back to where it should be.


Also, I like that Hee Seop Choi is feeling comfortable and gaining confidence. That could be a huge lift and his teamates will go a long way to helping him through this transistional season. If he starts to struggle, it will be good to know that he has the confidence of his teamates and the coaching staff behind him. Very good...

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Willis did quite a bit better than the report showed.


He got out of the 1st inning jam that was created when Alex Gonzalez booted a double play ball. He struck Pujols out looking with a sweet breaking ball!!


After giving up a first pitch homer, he got out of another jam in the 2nd created when Choi misplayed a grounder in the dirt.


Overall a nice outing for Willis. He is starting the spring in good form.

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the sea bass errors are a bit bothersome but i am more concerned with Choi he had a few get by him or hit him today at 1st

I agree with you. Unfortunately Choi looked very shaky at 1st....and behind the plate. :confused


He missed a short hop grounder that he should have had.....and luckily for him was not credited with the error. Later I believe it was Pujols who hit a hard liner to him that he booted. This one was counted as an error.


Could have easily been 2 errors in 2 plays.


To his credit though he did a very nice job on a double play ball lined to him in the 4th. Nice throw to Gonzo who turned it right back to him as he covered the bag. He also handled another grounder in the 4th.....but looked a bit shaky.


Behind the plate was no better. Struck out on a checked swing where he went around. Struck out again looking. None of his swings were very impressive looking.


So far I wouldn't give him a very good rating. Let's hope it improves.

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