The Dontrelle experiment is over. According to MLBTradeRumors.com, the Philadelphia Phillies announced today they have released lefty reliever Dontrelle Willis, who originally signed with the team three months ago. The announcement comes after three lackluster performances in spring training, where he gave up five runs over 2.2 innings and rumors that Willis missed an appearance due to bicep pain in his throwing arm. Though this release shouldn’t be seen as overly surprising, it is important because it brings the Phillies back to square one in terms of a left-handed specialist.
Willis was not a great starter. His 72-69 career record and 4.14 ERA was helped tremendously by a few good years early in his career, including his rookie campaign in 2003 (he went 14-6, 3.30 and won the ROY) and a 22-win year in 2005. In fact, Willis had to be sent down to triple-A in both 2008 and 2009 because of his poor performances as a starting pitcher.
The plan for Willis this year was to have him as a Left-handed-One-Out-GuY, or LOOGY for short. This seemed like a good idea, as his career numbers against left-handed hitters were pretty decent: a .200 BAA and 262 strikeouts in 888 plate appearances would make for a serviceable pitcher against lefties. But, the role of LOOGY is like a utility infielder: If you’re not on the top of your game, the team has no reason to keep you around.
The Phillies now have a few different options for their 2012 LOOGY. First, there’s Jake Diekman, who seemingly came out of nowhere, gaining a glowing endorsement from pitching coach Rich Dubee, who said Diekman has “a tremendously high ceiling.” Next is on-again-off-again pitcher Joe Savery, who has allowed just two hits in his three spring training outings. Lastly, non-roster invitee David Purcey, who spent 2011 between Detroit and its triple-A affiliate Toledo, may be a long-shot candidate for the last bullpen spot.