MILWAUKEE -- It's been 375 days since Dontrelle Willis last pitched in the Major Leagues. Come Sunday afternoon, that's all about to change.
The 2003 National League Rookie of the Year and two-time All Star has bounced around the league since the promising start to his career, but Willis will toe the rubber for the Reds and make his 190th career start Sunday.
"It's been a long road for him, and he's earned his way back here," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "We didn't give it to him. We gave him an opportunity and he seized the opportunity, and that's the one thing that I can promise anybody -- the opportunity. It's up to them to seize the opportunity, so hopefully he can give us a show."
The Reds haven't formally promoted Willis from Triple-A Louisville, but he walked around the visiting clubhouse at Miller Park before Saturday's game. Willis watched film, and All-Star right fielder Jay Bruce said he spoke briefly with Willis.
"He's got the stuff, he's got the talent, he just has to figure out mentally what he has to do to be successful," Bruce said. "Hopefully, he can be a spark for our team."
Baker said he's seen many players sent down to the Minor Leagues who never return to the big stage, but he's hoping Willis can be one of the few who succeeds during his return. Willis posted a 71-63 record during his eight years in the Majors, which included five years spent with the Marlins, three years with the Tigers and one year with the D-Backs.
Willis went 5-2 with a 2.63 ERA with Louisville this season, and Baker said there's nothing physically wrong with the left-handed pitcher.
"There were a number of guys that fell from the graces of up above and returned with a renewed knowledge, wisdom and desire to never return back to the Minors," Baker said. "Sometimes you've got to take a step backward to take four or five steps forward, and we'd like to be the recipient of his forward movement."
Willis' first Major League start since June 29, 2010, will close out the first half of the season for the Reds. Willis is 3-2 all-time against the Brewers with a 2.65 ERA. Baker said he's not targeting any specific stats to measure Willis' return except for one thing.
"Just win," he said. "I don't care what the score is, just win."
Renteria out of lineup with sore left forearm
MILWAUKEE -- Reds shortstop Edgar Renteria glanced down at his left forearm, pointed to the swelling and shook his head when asked about his availability.
Renteria was hit by a pitch in the third inning of Friday's game and exited in the fourth because of soreness in the forearm. He was replaced in the lineup by Zack Cozart, who was called up on Thursday, and Cozart made his second career start Saturday night.
"I'm going to go out and try and hit right now and see what I can do. It's sore so we'll see," Renteria said.
Manager Dusty Baker previously said he plans to use both players at shortstop so Cozart can continue learning the ins and outs of the Major Leagues.
"He's a little sore, he's a little swollen where he got hit," Baker said. "I wasn't sure where it hit him yesterday, but it hit him in the forearm, which is always easily a place of soreness afterward. So I'm not sure."
Bruce, Votto continue success vs. Brewers
MILWAUKEE -- If there was one reason why All-Stars Jay Bruce and Joey Votto both have more RBIs against the Brewers than they do against any other opponent, they aren't sure why.
"I like hitting here at Miller Park, but I don't think that really has anything to do with it, or at least not too much," Bruce said. "I don't know what it is. I guess it's just one of those things -- you know some teams you hit better against but it may just be coincidence."
Bruce and Votto combined to go 4-for-8 with with three runs scored and three RBIs during Friday's loss. Both players homered and improved their all-time RBI marks against the Brewers to 47 for Votto and 34 for Bruce. The success of both players is one of the main reasons why the Reds have won 22 of the last 29 games against the Brewers.
After Milwaukee took the first two games of the series, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke noticed the sluggers' success against his club.
"We need to figure out how to stop Votto," Roenicke said. "I know there's really no place to pitch him where you're safe, and in certain situations we can't pitch around him because we've got guys on base in front of him. It makes it really difficult, and then they're covered with [Brandon] Phillips and Bruce. Offensively, that's why they're scoring so many runs. Lately, they're the best offense in our league."
Both the Brewers and Reds paid tribute to the Negro Leagues on Saturday and wore special uniforms to mark the occasion. Manager Dusty Baker spoke of the importance of recognizing many of the players who paved the way for the game.
"If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't have been a player and I wouldn't have been sitting in this position that I'm sitting in right now," he said. "I was very fortunate -- very, very fortunate to have played on the same team and sat and listened to Satchel Paige and his stories and what he went through, the times that he had, and he never complained."
Baker said the reminder of the Negro Leagues is something important to him and that he has a special place in his home that serves as a reminder to some of the great players.
"I have a number of these guys in paintings on my wall at my house as a constant reminder to me to push forward, stay confident but remain humble," he said.
Audrey Snyder is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.