Dontrelle Willis, a fan favorite in South Florida who made his mark as a Marlin with his quirky delivery and infectious smile, announced his retirement Monday after a failed comeback bid with the Baltimore Orioles organization.
“I’m deeply thankful for everything the game has done for me, and I will always remember the great people I met along the way as well,’’ Willis, 30, tweeted on Monday after the Orioles announced his retirement.
Willis ended his career with a record of 72-69, with only four of his victories coming after his 2007 trade from the Marlins to the Detroit Tigers. His 68 wins with the Marlins was a then-franchise record.
Obtained from the Chicago Cubs in a 2002 deal that marked the first trade by new Marlins general manager Larry Beinfest, Willis burst onto the scene a year later when he was called up from the minors and helped the Marlins reach the playoffs, going 14-6 and receiving Rookie of the Year honors.
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Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen, who was the team’s third-base coach in 2003, singled out Willis as one of the main reasons the Marlins won the ’03 World Series.
“Obviously, it takes 25 guys to win the World Series,’’ Guillen said. “But I think this kid ... took the pitching staff to the new level. For two or three months he was unhittable.’’
Willis enjoyed his best season in 2005 when he went 22-10 and finished as the runner-up to the Cardinals’ Chris Carpenter for the Cy Young Award.
But his career fizzled after the Marlins traded him and Miguel Cabrera to the Tigers following the 2007 season. Willis washed out with the Tigers, winning only four games, and ended up bouncing from one organization to the other, unable to throw the ball over the plate with any consistency.