Kragthorpe: Dontrelle Willis should drive interest in Salt Lake Bees
By kurt kragthorpe
Tribune ColumnistFirst published Aug 16 2013 09:07AM
With an ever-changing roster, the Salt Lake Bees have a made a second-half surge and almost certainly are headed to the Pacific Coast League playoffs. And the recent addition of pitcher Dontrelle Willis is making what’s left of their season a lot more interesting.
The parent Los Angeles Angels signed Willis to a minor-league contract after he thrived with the independent Long Island Ducks this summer, and he delivered in his Bees debut Tuesday at Albuquerque. The left-hander who’s known for his high leg kick and twisting windup allowed three hits in six scoreless innings, while walking one and striking out five.
Willis is scheduled to start Sunday’s game vs. Las Vegas at Spring Mobile Ballpark.
Once a dominant pitcher in the National League, the 31-year-old Willis has dealt with injuries and an anxiety disorder over the past several seasons. The "D-Train" was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2003 when he posted a 14-6 record and Florida won the World Series. In 2005, he went 22-10.
That was the same year current Bees reliever Chad Cordero recorded 47 saves for Washington. Cordero’s comeback attempt has not gone ideally for him this season, as he’s basically functioning as an extra arm in the bullpen. Cordero is 2-3 with a 5.61 ERA and two saves in 43.1 innings, having appeared in 44 games.
Based on his showing in Albuquerque, Willis’ return to affiliated baseball could take him somewhere. The Bees’ radar gun clocked his fastball between 89 and 92 mph Tuesday, and he obviously was effective. If he maintains that level of performance in the PCL, the next issue would become when the Angels would promote him.
They’re hopelessly out of the race in the AL West, but likely would want to evaluate Willis for next year, with their interests balanced by the Bees’ playoff run.
In any case, Willis is one of those guys with impressive big-league backgrounds who occasionally pop up in Triple-A, and he’ll certainly be worth watching as long as he’s here.