Willis was drafted by and came up through the Florida Marlins system where he was proclaimed a top 50 prospect before his major league debut in 2003. That year he took home the NL Rookie of the Year award after he went 14-6 with a 3.30 ERA for the Marlins. In 2005 Willis won 22 games and came in second in Cy Young voting.
What looked to be a promising career quickly turned sour when Willis lost his consistency and the strike zone.
Sunday will mark the first time since last July that Willis will appear in a major league game. In 2010 the lefty made his way around the bigs, as he was traded from Detroit to the Diamondbacks. It only took Arizona a month to release Willis, who was picked up a week later by the Giants. San Francisco tried him as a reliever in the minors but to no avail. The club granted Willis his free agency in November.
Cincinnati decided to take a flyer on the 29 year old, and Willis has shown well for the club. He’s spent the entire 2011 season with the Reds’ Triple-A affiliate and has gone 5-2 with a 2.63 ERA. Willis has struck out 67 over his 75.1 innings of work while only walking 20 and surrendering 71 hits.
The Reds rotation could certainly use a boost. Besides the already mentioned disappointment of Volquez, Cincinnati has not gotten any production from veteran Bronson Arroyo (5.58 ERA) or youngsters Mike Leake and Travis Wood. Even with Johnny Cueto and his 1.77 ERA, Reds’ pitchers still rank 22nd in the majors in that department.
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