The Milwaukee Brewers announced today that LHP Dontrelle Willis is ending his latest comeback bid, opting to retire after a stiff neck prevented him from pitching in his first Spring Training game for the team last week.
If that sounds familiar, it’s probably because Willis has attempted comebacks with multiple teams since he last pitched in the majors in 2011, and announced his retirement at least once before (in July 2012).
Willis was the National League Rookie of the Year in 2003 and finished second in voting for the NL Cy Young Award in 2005, but his last full season in the major leagues was 2007 with the Florida Marlins.
He pitched for the Kane County Cougars in 2002, going 10-2 with a 1.83 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 127.2 IP. He combined efforts with relief pitchers Tyler Banks and Kevin Cave to no-hit the Beloit Snappers in nine innings on May 1 of that year. (Willis pitched the first six innings.)
Willis suffered one of his two Midwest League losses 23 days later when the Chiefs blanked the Cougars 3-0 in the first game at Peoria’s O’Brien Field (now called Dozer Park). Mike Wodnicki, who peaked at Double-A two years later, pitched seven innings to get the win for the Chiefs.