2003 Player of the Week winners
NEW YORK -- Word is out.
Marlins rookie left-hander Dontrelle Willis is swiftly becoming the real deal. His name is growing locally and nationally through TV exposure and numerous articles. Now the voters of National League Player of the Week have taken notice.
For posting two complete-game shutouts, the 21-year-old lefty was named the National League Pepsi Co-Player of the Week for June 16-22. Willis shares the NL honor with Arizona rookie reliever Jose Valverde.
Willis (7-1) has won six straight starts. None more impressive than what he accomplished last week.
Last Monday, Willis tossed a complete-game, one-hit shutout against the Mets. The Marlins edged New York, 1-0, on Ivan Rodriguez's solo home run off Tom Glavine. Willis did the rest, striking out eight in nine innings.
As an encore, Willis outdueled the Devil Rays and the elements Saturday night.
In a rain-shortened game, Willis preserved a 2-0 victory by tossing a two-hitter in five innings. A noted fast worker on the mound, every precious second counted Saturday to get the game past the necessary five innings.
Willis was on the mound facing the leadoff batter, pinch-hitter Jason Tyner, in the top of the sixth inning when heavy rains caused a delay. It took one hour, 19 minutes to get the necessary five innings in for Willis to improve to 7-1.
"It was a blessing that worked in my favor," Willis said of his quick pace on the mound. "It was a quick game."
His one-hitter against the Mets ended in two hours, 10 minutes.
Willis lowered his ERA to 2.38 as he extended his scoreless-inning streak to 14. In his six-game winning streak, he had given up four runs in 42 2/3 innings (0.84).
Because of his high leg kick and herky-jerky delivery, Willis is being compared to a young Vida Blue. Willis was born in Oakland and he lives in Alameda. He remains an A's fan.
Marlins manager Jack McKeon is pushing Willis for All-Star consideration. With a few more impressive starts, he just might get it.
"He's one of the more colorful players in the league," McKeon said. "The game needs more players like this kid."
Willis was brought up on May 9 after just six starts at Double-A Carolina, where he was 4-0. Last season, he was acquired as part of the trade that sent Antonio Alfonseca and Matt Clement to the Cubs.
"He's one of the more colorful players in the league. The game needs more players like this kid."
-- Jack McKeon|
on Dontrelle Willis
Willis spent last season at low Class A Kane County and Class A Jupiter, where he posted a 12-2 record. Counting his minor league stints, the left-hander has a 23-3 record in the Marlins' organization.
A high-energy worker, Willis has provided a spark throughout the Marlins clubhouse. His teammates quickly embraced him for his outgoing personality, and the fact he has become a dominant pitcher in a short period of time.
He got his big-league break after the Marlins placed three of their starters on the disabled list, A.J. Burnett (Tommy John surgery), Mark Redman (broken left thumb) and Josh Beckett (sprained right elbow).
Willis leads all Major League rookies with seven wins and his 55 strikeouts are third.
The Marlins have won four straight and they seek to even their record at 39-39 Tuesday night against the Mets at Shea Stadium. Willis' next start will be Thursday in New York, a city he had never visited until this week.
Joe Frisaro is a reporter
for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball
or its clubs.