The Milwaukee Brewers have announced the signing of Dontrelle Willis to a minor league deal heading into Spring Training of 2015.
The one-time pitching phenom, who hasn’t appeared in the major leagues since 2011, signed a minor-league deal Wednesday with the Brewers with an invitation to their spring camp.
“You never know,” said Melvin, who has been looking for left-handed relief help. “You give guys another chance and sometimes they come through for you. He has kept himself in shape and continues to work at it.”
Melvin has tried reclamation projects in the past. Some worked out (Gabe Kapler), some didn’t (Bobby Crosby, Kelvim Escobar). The way he sees it, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
“I know some other clubs gave him a shot and it didn’t work out,” Melvin said. “Sometimes, things change and work out differently. There might be something that clicks.”
Willis, 33, was a sensation as a young pitcher, going 14-6 with a 3.30 earned run average for the World Series champion Florida Marlins in 2003 to earn National League Rookie of the Year honors. In 2005, he went 22-10 for the Marlins and is still their only 20-game winner.
I saw that and just couldn’t believe that it had been almost THIRTEEN years since Willis was in the Midwest League and – it seemed – made it his personal mission to crush the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.
Flashback to 2002: The Kane County Cougars were in their final season as the Midwest League affiliate of the Florida Marlins and Willis was listed by Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook (2002) as the #21 prospect in the Chicago Cubs organization. Willis had joined the Marlins on March 27, 2002 in a trade with the Cubs. (Antonio ALfonseca & Matt Clement to the Cubs. Willis, Julian Tavarez, Ryan Jorgenson, and Jose Cuteo to the Marlins).
Just over two weeks later – April 13 at Kane County, Willis made his first start against the Timber Rattlers (a Seattle affiliate at the time). I missed that game due to the Green Bay Gamblers being in the USHL playoffs in Des Moines on that day. But, I heard about his performance – 7IP, 3H, 1R, 0ER, BB, 2K – in a no decision.
The first time I got a chance to see Willis in person was on May 7 at Fox Cities Stadium. It was the first game of a doubleheader and it was….eye-opening. Willis pitched a 7-inning, complete-game, shutout in an 8-0 Kane County victory. He took a no-hitter into the sixth inning. Dan Floyd singled to start the frame to break up the no-hitter. The Rattlers would collect four hits that day – singles by Floyd, Shin-Soo Choo, and Jason Rainey and a double by Jerry Amador. Willis walked two and had just one strikeout, but picked up the win to run his record to 3-0.
The final matchup between the Rattlers and Willis was set for June 23 at Kane County. To put this in context, the Rattlers finished the first half of the season with a 30-39 record. They would open the second half of the season at Kane County. The Cougars were – somehow – just 29-40 in the first half. Both teams were looking to get a good start to the second half.
June 23 was a Sunday afternoon and it was the fourth game of the four-game series. The Rattlers had lost the first three games of the series and were trying to avoid the sweep. Kane County scored six times in the second inning off Emiliano Fruto to give Willis a 6-0 lead.
Wisconsin scored their first earned runs off Willis in the top of the third inning with an RBI double by Floyd and an RBI grounder from Choo. They Rattlers would get another run off Willis in the sixth when Greg Dobbs doubled and scored on a single by Jason Van Meetren. That would make the score 7-3. Kane County would win 10-3.
Willis went seven innings again in this game and allowed six hits with two walks and four strikeouts.
His totals in three starts against Wisconsin:
21IP, 13H, 4R, 3ER, 5BB, 7K, 2-0 with a 1.29ERA.
The Rattlers would go on to lose their first eight games of the second half with an eventual record of 2-20 in the first 22 games of the second half of the 2002 season.
Just under a year after his last start against the Timber Rattlers, Willis was pitching for the Marlins in the Major Leagues.
Alumni Birthdays for January 22:
Tyrone Taylor (’13) – 21
BROCK! Kjeldgaard (’09) – 29
Shawn Nottingham (’05) – 30
Dave Leonhard (’63) – 74
After yesterday’s post, I went back to December and found three more transactions involving former Timber Rattlers.
Alex Liddi (’06, ’07, ’08) is now in the Kansas City Royals system.
Adding depth at third base and a potential platoon partner for Mike Moustakas in the form of right-handed former prospect Alex Liddi, the Royals unwittingly added a player whose personal and prospect history are both shrouded in mystery. In his age-21 season, Liddi crushed PCL pitching while playing for the Tacoma Rainiers. Playing half his games in a park that favored pitchers over right-handed batters, Liddi still managed a .259/.332/.488 split with 30 dongs hung in 138 minor-league games. Of course, Liddi whiffed at alarming rates in his September 2011 cup of coffee, and after a brief return to form following a June demotion to Tacoma, Liddi’s K-rates settle in over 30% at pretty much every stop between then and now.
Nathan Adcock (’07, ’08) signed with the Cincinnati Reds organization.
A Kentucky native, Adcock, 26, has the most major league experience of the three players signed, appearing in 43 games over parts of three seasons with the Royals and Rangers. Pitching primarily out of the bullpen, Adcock has gone 1-4 with a 3.86 ERA and 1.48 WHIP. Adcock missed the first two months of the 2014 season, but pitched fairly effectively after his return. In 18 games at Triple-A Round Rock, Adcock went 1-0 with a 2.95 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. He saw time with the Rangers as well, going 0-0 with a 4.50 ERA and 1.60 WHIP in seven appearances. He saw his strikeout numbers increase from a career rate of 6.6 to 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings between Triple-A and the Rangers.
Rene Rivera (’03) was traded by the San Diego Padres to the Tampa Bay Rays.
What team isn’t enhanced by a strong catcher? The Rays have had trouble developing catchers within their developmental system throughout recent years, so trades have been their way to try to find solutions at the position. The duo of Hanigan and Jose Molina underwhelmed last season, so Tampa Bay hopes it’s stronger at catcher with Rivera and John Jaso, who was acquired in the trade that sent Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar to the Oakland Athletics.
Rivera’s ability to throw out potential base stealers is especially promising. Molina only caught 14 potential base stealers last season as opposed to allowing 38 stolen bases. Hanigan, meanwhile, threw out just eight potential base stealers but allowed 30 stolen bases.
Alumni Birthdays for January 21:
Shawn Zarraga (’09) – 28
Colin Ryan (’90) – 48
Bill Eveline (’86) – 49
Gary Peters (’87) – 50
Scott Kershaw (’86) – 51
Jose Galvez (’75) – 60
The Brewers announced that Hunter Morris (’10) has been designated for assignment after the Yovani Gallardo trade with the Rangers.
The Brewers completed the deal that sent Gallardo to Texas on Monday for three young players — right-handers Corey Knebel and Marcos Diplan and middle infielder Luis Sardinas.
Knebel and Sardinas were added to the Brewers’ 40-man roster. To open a needed spot, first baseman Hunter Morris, a fomer Brewers minor league player of the year, was designated for assignment.
That wasn’t the only transaction involving a former Timber Rattler yesterday.
The Cubs traded Luis Valbuena (’06) – along with Dan Straily – to the Houston Astros for Dexter Fowler.
That the Cubs upgraded their major league roster without trading any of their top prospects, along with a deep reservoir of relievers, leaves the possibility of landing a veteran starter during their 18-month mission to acquire “impact pitching” that started in late July.
The trade of Valbuena means second baseman Javier Baez could work at third base this spring while he attempts to cut down his strikeouts.
One other alumni transaction occured on January 13. Carlos Peguero (’07) signed as a free agent with the Rangers.
Peguero, a 27-year-old left-handed hitter, joins fellow offseason addition Kyle Blanks to form a physically imposing platoon. Blanks, a right-handed hitter, is 6-6, 265 pounds while Peguero is listed at 6-5, 250.
Peguero was once a fairly highly-regarded prospect in the Seattle minor league system, but has struggled with strike-zone recognition in the majors. Peguero is a .196 career hitter with a .245 OBP and .623 OPS in 229 plate appearances over four seasons with Seattle and Kansas City. He has 89 strikeouts and just 11 walks in the majors. He has hit nine home runs.
Peguero spent most of 2014 with Kansas City’s Triple-A club in Omaha where he hit 30 homers.
Alumni Birthdays for January 20:
Seth Harvey (’12, ’14) – 27
Chris Mears (’99) – 37
Ronaldo Pino (’83, ’84) – 51
Cecil Espy (’81) – 52
Dave McLaughlin (’83, ’84) – 55
Clarence Glenetzke (’46) – Would have been 93
I was looking for some good news today. All I had to do was look at the field at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium. Notice the GREEN!??!?!?
Aside from that…
Alumni Birthdays for January 17:
David Denson (’14) – 20
Dan Floyd (’02) – 32
TJ Bohn (’03) – 35
Jay Andrews (’91) – 44
Dave Yobs (’81) – 56
Alumni Birthdays for January 18:
Brett Lawrie (’09) – 25
Michael Pineda (’08) – 26
Justin Thomas (’06) – 31
John Thompson (’95) – 42
Cesar Bernhardt (’86) – 46
Ramon Murillo (’81) – 59
Cleo Kilpatrick (’78) – 61
Rich Severson (’68) – 70
Mickey McGuire (’53) – Would have been 85
Alumni Birthdays for January 19:
Mike Burrows (’97) – 39
Sal Urso (’93) – 43
Marshall Harper (’77) – 60
Ken Frailing (’67) – 67
This week’s Flashback Friday is a look at the first Foxes Newsletter from 1992.
Here’s what that Newsletter looked like:
Alumni Birthdays for January 16:
Juan Sanchez (’09) – 28
Matt Renfree (’07) – 30
Jon Nelson (’03) – 35
He loves snakes. For some horrible reason. Because of that, his favorite Minor League logo is of the Timber Rattlers.
That information comes at about :19 seconds of the video.
No relation to this Boog Powell, who was a member of the Fox Cities Foxes in 1960:
I have known Ben Chiswick since he was at Quad Cities…not that long ago. Ben has worked as the play-by-play announcer the last several seasons with the West Michigan Whitecaps. Now, he’s leaving the profession.
When Ben Chiswick was hired five years ago to become the play-by-play announcer for the West Michigan Whitecaps, he didn’t have a daughter and the location was closer to his Illinois home than his previous job.
But times change, and Chiswick has informed the Whitecaps he will not return for a sixth season for family reasons.
“It was a difficult decision, a family decision and it wasn’t anything that I necessarily planned or saw coming,” said Chiswick, who lives in Gurnee, Ill.
“As you know, there is a lot of travel in this business, and for myself being out of state, it was a lot of time being out of state, and my daughter is getting older. I just didn’t want to be away from home as much anymore.”
Good Luck, Ben.
Alumni Birthday for January 15:
Trey Witte (’93) – 45
Fans were asked to design the 2015 Batting Practice Jerseys for the Timber Rattlers. You can see the designs at this link to the Timber Rattlers Facebook page.
Remember my record of picking winners. The winner is at the link somewhere.Here are some of my favorites.
Alumni Birthdays for January 14:
Joe White (’08) – 29
TA Fulmer (’03) – 35
Rod Myers (’92) – 42
Brian McCormack (’88) – 49
Chris Jefts (’85) – 50
Terry Forster (’70) – 63
Nielsen Cochran (’61) – 74
Did you receive a Timber Rattlers gift card for Christmas? The Snake Pit Team Store has a deal for you:
Customers who use a Timber Rattlers gift card to pay for purchases* in the month of January will receive 10% off store merchandise.
Most store merchandise – including the jerseys and clearance items that are normally exempt – are available for this discount. The only items that are not eligible for the discount are Kids Crew Memberships (and of course, more gift cards).
This offer is available with other discounts, so season ticket holders/shareholders will receive their normal 15%, then get an extra 10%. This offer is in store only all January long. See store for details!
*-Do not need to pay the entire bill with gift card.
Reggie Keen (’11) – 27
Eric Marzec (’11) – 27
Nick Tyson (’09) – 27
Jerry Amador (’02) – 35
Jeff Heaverlo (’99) – 37
Justin Smith (’99) – 38
Mike Buskey (’72) – 66
Sorry for the delay in getting something new on the blog. I’ve been celebrating!
I will get to the Alumni Report later this week. Plus, this post marks the beginning of daily posting from now through the first off day of the 2015 season (Editor: Now through….April 27? Really? You’re going to do that?) There should be some really cool announcements coming up over the next few weeks and the blog lets me go a bit more in depth (ED: More sarcastic, you mean).
The biggest news involving the Midwest League was the naming of the new president. I will link to the incomprable Ben Hill’s story at MiLB.com:
The dawn of 2015 resulted in a changing of the guard for the Midwest League as longtime president George Spelius stepped down after 28 seasons. Richard “Dick” Nussbaum II, a South Bend-based attorney, who has served as the league’s general counsel since 1993, replaced him.
“I never imagined this would happen. I thought George would be president for life, like Fidel Castro,” said Nussbaum, speaking from his office in South Bend as part of a conference call that also included Spelius. “But over the past couple of years, George mentioned that he’d like to slow down, and the league directors quite wisely provided for a smooth succession plan. So the past two years, I’ve been in training for this job. It’s been on my mind a lot.”
“I told [the Midwest League succession] committee, ‘I think you’ve already got your next president, Dick Nussbaum,'” added Spelius. “And off we were. There was no war of any sort — it was like having a nice banana split.”
Which Banana Split?
While there are no Midwest League relocation efforts on the immediate horizon, this will likely be an issue that Nussbaum deals with at some point during his presidential tenure. A distinct “tale of two cities” dynamic exists within the circuit. Community-owned small market teams playing in old no-frills ballparks, such as the Burlington Bees and Spelius’ hometown Beloit Snappers, must co-exist with attendance powerhouses possessing amenity-laden multi-use facilities such as the Fort Wayne TinCaps and the aforementioned Dayton Dragons. It is an interesting and often difficult-to-reconcile dynamic, and Nussbaum gave a carefully considered answer regarding how the league will proceed with such matters.
“I think community-owned teams are one of the strengths of our league,” he said. “But as time goes by, it gets harder and harder for them to compete. The standards are higher in terms of the stadiums and the quality of the field. But those small communities are how we started out. It’s still in our DNA. It’s part of our responsibility as a league to support clubs that might have more challenges than others. … We do our best to represent the clubs we have in place but are realistic enough to know that the realities of the marketplace need to be addressed. As long as they’re addressed, we’ll do everything we can to help them succeed.”
“Good answer, Dick,” added Spelius.
Read the whole thing.
Alumni Birthdays for January 12:
Casey Craig (’06) – 31
Juan Sandoval (’03) – 35
Blake Bone (’03) – 37
Richie Leblanc (’87) – 49
Larry Allen (’86) – 51
Mike Trujillo (’83) – 55
Tim Hulett (’80) – 55
Paul Gilliford (’65) – 70
Ivan Siegfried (’46) – Would have been 91
Last week’s post didn’t get published…somehow…which was weird.
Australian Baseball League:
Sydney Blue Sox (12-16, 5th):
Craig Anderson (’00): 7 games, 7 starts, 2-5, 3.15ERA, 45.2IP, 10BB, 40K
Melbourne Aces (10-18, 6th):
Kyle Heckathorn (’11): 3 games, 0-2, 8.10ERA, 3.1IP, 4BB, 3K
Perth Heat (13-15, 4th):
Chad Robinson (’10): 10 games, 1-3, 2 saves, 3.46ERA, 13.0IP, 7BB, 17K
Aguilas Cibaenas (30-20, 2nd):
Edward Paredes (’08): 13 games, 1 start, 0-2, 6.43ERA, 7.0IP, 2BB, 6K
Juan Sandoval (’03): 18 games, 0-0, 4.76ERA, 17.0IP, 10BB, 15K
Estrellas de Oriente (32-18, 1st):
Juan Diaz (’08): 31 games, .245/.294/.309, 0HR, 12RBI
Ryan Rowland-Smith (’03): 7 games, 6 starts, 2-1, 3.55ERA, 25.1IP, 8BB, 12K
Gigantes del Cibao (28-22, 3rd):
Carlos Peguero (’07): 31 games, .271/.428/.542, 8HR, 20RBI
Tigres del Licey (19-31, 5th):
Carlos Triunfel (’07): 20 games, .196/.241/.216, 0HR, 5RBI
Toros del Este (24-26, 4th):
Austin Bibens-Dirkx (’06): 6 games, 5 starts, 1-3, 4.43ERA, 22.1IP, 4BB, 20K
Cangrejeros de Santurce (15-17, 4th):
Omar Garcia (’14): 11 games, .091/.167/.091, 0HR, 0RBI
Yadiel Rivera (’12): 30 games, .224/.300/.367, 2HR, 17RBI
Joel Pineiro (’98): 9 games, 9 starts, 1-4, 4.89ERA, 49.2IP, 9BB, 28K
Criollos de Caguas (21-12, 1st):
Efrain Nieves (’10): 7 games, 6 starts, 2-1, 4.02ERA, 31.1IP, 11BB, 13K
Gigantes de Carolina (17-16, 3rd):
Jeff Dominguez (’06): 33 games, .205/.272/.286, 2HR, 9RBI
JC Ramirez (’08): 12 games, 0-1, 2.93ERA, 14.2IP, 3BB, 12K
Indios de Mayaguez (19-15, 2nd):
Martin Maldonado (’09): 9 games, .143/.286/.179, 0HR, 2RBI
Hiram Burgos (’10): 2 games, 2 starts, 0-1, 3.65ERA, 5.0IP, BB, 6K
Jorge Lopez (’13): 6 games, 6 starts, 1-1, 1.73ERA, 26.0IP, 8BB, 25K
Senadores de San Juan (10-22, 5th):
Joe Dunigan (’08): 9 games, .242/.278/..667; 4HR, 9RBI
Rene Rivera (’03): 16 games, .262/.318/.410, HR, 5RBI
Aguilas del Zulia (34-25, 2nd):
Eric Marzec (’11): 9 games, 7 starts, 2-1, 2.68ERA, 37.0IP, 3BB, 24K
Bravos de Margarita (22-36, 8th):
Tyler Cravy (’12): 6 games, 6 starts, 0-4, 5.04ERA, 25.0IP, 6BB, 20K
Greg Holle (’11): 15 games, 0-2, 1 Save, 4.91ERA, 11.0IP, 7BB,2K
Cardenales de Lara (27-34, 7th):
Luis Valbuena (’06): 17 games, .230/.299/.492, 4HR, 12RBI
Jose Escalona (’08): 5 games, 0-0, 8.44ERA, 5.1IP, 3BB, 4K
Cesar Jimenez (’03): 16 games, 9 starts, 3-5, 3.83ERA, 47.0IP, 12BB, 44K
Caribes de Anzoategui (36-23, 1st):
Orlando Arcia (’13): 53 games, .268/.336/.449, 7HR, 28RBI
Navegantes del Magallanes (30-29, 4th):
Carlos Maldonado (’99): 18 games, .167/.310/.292, 1HR, 7RBI
Tigres de Aragua (32-25, 3rd):
Renee Cortez (’03): 25 games, 3-1, Save, 1.50ERA, 24.0IP, 10BB, 7K
Alumni Birthdays for December 22:
Adam Giacalone (’13) – 23
Ken Reed (’85) – 52
Curt Reed (’82) – 56
Chuck Johnson (’79, ’80) – 56
Timothy McLain (’66) – 68
Emil Kania (’40) – Would have been 98
Alumni Birthdays for December 21:
Khris Davis (’10) – 27
Alex Meneses (’07, ’08) – 31
Enrique Atencio (’93) – 43
Alumni Birthdays for December 20:
Santo Manzanillo (’10, ’12) – 26
Nolan Gallagher (’07) – 29
Michael Atkinson (’70, ’71, ’73) – 63
Grant Dunlap (’42) – Would have been 91
Dunlap passed away in September, 2014. Occidental College, where he was the basketball coach, baseball coach, and athletic director, published this after his death:
A native of Stockton, Dunlap was signed by the Cincinnati Reds at age 17, beginning a pro baseball career that landed him briefly in the majors in 1953 with the St. Louis Cardinals. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the South Pacific and China during World War II before enrolling at Oxy in the V-12 program. Dunlap played for the Tigers during the 1944 season at shortstop, batting .464 and being chosen first-team All-Conference.
Dunlap returned to Occidental as a coach and professor in 1954. He coached basketball for 16 years, going 205-156 overall and winning five SCIAC championships. In his 30 years as the Tigers’ baseball coach, his teams posted a 510-316 record and won nine conference championships. He also served as Oxy’s athletic director from 1971 to 1976. He retired in 1984.
Planet of Hats: These are from Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.