The once young, strong armed lefty with that high leg kick who had so much promise is now done. Dontrelled Willis is retiring at age 30.
In 2003, Willis was named the National League Rookie of the Year. He was also named to the 2003 National League All-Star team as an injury replacement. Willis finished with 14 wins in his rookie season. He helped the Marlins win the World Series against the Yankees that year.
In 2004, Willis started the year by not allowing an earned run in his first 3 starts. But by the end of the 2004 season, his record was only 10–11 and his ERA was 4.02.
In 2005, Willis became known as one of the best pitchers in baseball. He started the 2005 season by pitching two shutouts against the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies. During the month of April, Willis went 5–0 in 5 starts and allowed 5 earned runs in 35 innings pitched for a 1.29 ERA. He would be named NL Pitcher of the Month. He finished the season with 22 wins. Willis would go on to finish 2nd in the N.L. Cy Young Award voting. He won the Warren Spahn Award, given to the best left-handed pitcher in each league.
In 2006, his numbers decreased but he still posted decent numbers for the year and went 12–12 with a 3.87 ERA.
In the 2007 Season, Willis went 10–15 with a 5.17 ERA and a 1.60 WHIP. This was his worst major league season yet.
In December 2007, Willis was traded to Detroit and signed a 3 year extension. During his career with the Tigers, 2008-2010, Willis played in 24 games (22 starts). His record was 2–8 and had an ERA of 6.86 in 101 innings pitched. He was sent to the DL, sent to the minors, and was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
On June 1, 2010, Willis was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks. He won his first start with the D-Backs. In his second start, Willis pitched four innings, giving up two runs and three hits, walking six batters. During the second inning, he cracked a finger nail and after the fourth inning, he was removed from the game due to the pain on the fingernail. On July 4th, he was designated for assignment and got released.
On July 15th, he signed a minor league contract with the Giants. He never made it with the team and eventually was granted free agency.
In 2011, he signed a minor league contract with the Reds. He eventually got called up on July 10th. He ended the season with 9 quality starts but still could not find his former self.
In December 2001, he signed a 1 year deal with the Phillies but failed to even make it through spring training and got released. Willis signed a minor league contract with the Baltimore Orioles five days later. He made four appearances with AAA Norfolk Tides, going 0-3 with an 8.53 ERA while allowing eight runs and ten hits in 6⅓ innings. He announced his retirement as an active player on July 2, 2012.
So the question is, what made him lose his control. At age 23, he was in the race for the Cy-Young and was one of the best pitchers in the league. It’s one of those mysterious things we might never figure out.