Dontrelle Willis back with Cubs after 10 years — and now he’s injured in 7-6 loss
By GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com February 25, 2013 7:23PM
Dontrelle Wills pitches against the Dodgers during a spring training game on Monday, Feb. 25, 2013. Photo by Gordon Wittenmyer~Sun-Times
Updated: February 25, 2013 7:41PM
GLENDALE, Ariz. – It took Dontrelle Willis more than 10 years to get back on a mound for the Cubs’ organization – and just seven pitches to head back off with an injury.
The former All-Star of Florida Marlins’ “D-Train” fame suffered shoulder tightness during the eighth inning of Monday’s spring training game against the Los Angeles Dodgers and left the mound with the trainer.
``It’s a minor setback. I don’t think it’s going to be anything serous,’’ said the visibly dejected left-hander. ``But it’s just frustrating because I finally get a chance, and I hit the ground running, and an injury happens. It’s frustrating. But if guys can overcome ACL tears, I’ll be able to overcome this and come back.’’
Willis, a Rookie of the Year in 2003, a year after the Cubs traded him as a minor-leaguer to the Marlins, re-signed with the Cubs as a minor-league free agent assigned to minor-league camp as he makes another comeback after a long, mysterious decline since his 22-win All-Star season in 2005.
He had been invited to join the team as an extra bullpen pitcher each of the first three Cactus League games, and made his first appearance Monday after starter Carlos Villanueva’s five-batter start (pitch limit) created a domino effect that used up most of the pitchers.
Willis, 31, said he felt the shoulder tighten on the second pitch to Nick Evans. He then threw five straight balls and left.
Willis represented a no-risk flyer when they signed him and is not considered a part of any of their pitching plans, short of a sudden rebirth of power and command.
Manager Dale Sveum didn’t even seem to know much about him before the game, declining to comment on his ability or comeback chances.
``He’s in minor league camp,’’ Sveum said. ``That’s all there is to it.’’
Said Willis: ``I’m just frustrated today because I really wanted to play and get in there and mix it up,’’ said. ``It’s early so hopefully I get enough time to get back.’’
DODGERS 7, CUBS 6
DOWN FOR THE COUNT: Carlos Villanueva, making his first start in a bid to win the last rotation opening, made it through only five batters before using up his 30-pitch limit, spending half to strike out leadoff man Dee Gordon, then walking the next two batters. ‘‘In a perfect world, it would have been six up, six down. But it happens,’’ Villanueva said. ‘‘It’s a little frustrating. Being a competitor, you don’t want to get out in the first inning. But I understand. It’s time to build up; it’s time to work on things. But I feel good, and we’ll take it from there.’’
BAM, BAM: Outfielder Darnell McDonald, a non-roster invite trying to win a bench job, and starting catcher Welington Castillo hit back-to-back homers in a four-run third inning. McDonald’s was a three-run shot hit so deep to left, it was hard to see where it landed. “It’s good to see one land anywhere,” he said. “I’m just coming in to compete for a job. Go out and do the best and see what happens.”
D-TRAIN DERAILMENT: Dontrelle Willis, in minor-league camp for the Cubs, left with shoulder tightness just seven pitches into his latest comeback, walking the leadoff man in the eighth (who eventually scored to tag him with the loss). Willis, who joined the club Monday as an extra man in the bullpen, called it a minor setback and vowed to overcome it.
SCHIER POWER: Outfielder Nate Schierholtz homered off Chad Billingsley in the first after doubles leading off the game by Luis Valbuena and Darwin Barney. Then the lefty half of the right-field platoon reached on a broken-bat single during the Cubs’ big third inning.
ON DECK: Rockies at Cubs, at HoHoKam Park, 2:05 p.m. (live on cubs.com), Edwin Jackson vs. Jhoulys Chacin.