Marlins youngster drawing rave reviews

Updated: June 17, 2003, 9:36 AM ET
By Jim Baker
Here's what I wrote about Dontrelle Willis in the May 5 Baker's Dozen just after his first start:

"a promising major league debut& Dontrelle Willis should&be the designated starter for any Turn Back the Clock promotion because this guy has throwback written all over him. Well, it's written all over his windup and delivery anyway (not to mention his high socks). He's like something out of a newsreel with a big pumping action and leg kick the likes of which we have to rent a movie like 'The Pride of St. Louis' to see these days. Here's hoping that Willis sticks so that we can all see once more what it was like when a pitcher gave us our money's worth even before releasing the ball."

Since then, Willis has done more than stick. He continues to be an incredibly entertaining pitcher to watch but he has added the all-important aspect of effectiveness. Last night he outdid himself with a complete game, one-hitter of the New York Mets in which he outdueled future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine, 1-0. That delivery -- which is so much fun to watch from the stands or on television -- is apparently not so much fun to behold from the batter's box. Sam Borden describes it this way in today's New York Daily News: "The lefty's unorthodox delivery can be confusing. Willis kicks his leg out and twists his left arm awkwardly behind him as he goes into his windup, which looks like it ought to hurt his shoulder. It doesn't, apparently, but does keep the ball hidden from the hitter." Cliff Floyd smashed a long foul against him only to strike out in that at bat as well as in his two others. He was effusive in is praise, telling Borden, "I give him all the credit, he's the best pitcher I've ever seen." Borden was incredulous and asked Floyd to clarify his praise. "I struck out three times. I haven't done that in awhile." There might be a temptation on the part of the Marlins to overuse Willis, given his effectiveness. At 21, he still needs to be shepherded along. So far, they are showing pretty good restraint. Last night he threw 109 pitches in his nine innings, which matches his high. The average number has been about 100 for him, which speaks pretty well for the Marlins and their desire to see him handled properly.
Jim Baker is an author at Baseball Prospectus and a frequent contributor to Page 2. You can e-mail Jim at bottlebat@gmail.com.

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