Dontrelle Willis pitched like horse-bleep on Wednesday. That’s not my terminology for it, he said it himself.
The D-Train, trying to win a spot as the team’s LOOGY (left-handed specialist) out of the bullpen, was tagged for four runs on three hits and two walks, retiring just two of the seven Astro batters he faced, and failed to make it through a full inning of work.
And keep in mind, these are ASTRO hitters we’re talking about. Most of them MINOR LEAGUE Astro hitters.
But have no fear, everyone. After the game, Willis explained that he has a sore bicep, and that is the reason why Houston’s AAA squad was lighting him up like a Christmas tree. After the game, Dontrelle said “I’m throwing nothing up there, and you can’t go out there like that. That does nobody any good, but at the same time I always want to compete.”
Adding intrigue to the mix is that Willis told pitching coach Rich Dubee and the Phils medical staff that he had recovered from the soreness in his bicep that flared up the day before and that he was ready to go. It wasn’t until after he was done throwing 33 pitches of slop up to the plate that he relented and informed everyone that he was still hurting.
It’s an interesting PR move, immediately blaming a bad performance on an injury that you were hiding from the team.
I have no doubt that Willis was hurting and that it negatively affected his performance. Still, he picked an interesting way to handle it, especially when you consider how one Mr. Chase Utley has talked about his injury situations in the past when he has underperformed.
REPORTER – “Hey Chase, you’re mired in a pretty bad three week slump. Are you OK physically?”
UTLEY – “Who are you?”
REPORTER – “I cover the team for “Affiliated Under-funded Newspaper.” I’m here every day. You told me to get out of your locker last week, remember?”
UTLEY – “Well, I’ve never seen you before.”
REPORTER – “Anyway, getting back to the question, are you hurt?”
UTLEY – “I’m fine.”
REPORTER – “So there’s nothing physically that’s negatively affecting your performance?”
UTLEY – “I’m fine. Now I must destroy you.”
Fast-forward two months later and Utley has surgery on a torn labrum. That’s just his way, and there’s no doubt that Chase is a different breed. Not everyone can be expected to act like him. We all know that Utley is part cyborg, a baseball terminator, whose only objective is to provide the media with as little information as possible while consuming as many protein bars and energy shakes as the human body can withstand.
Still, it’s an interesting contrast. Utley would never, EVER admit that any kind of physical ailment was the cause of negative play. Utley either says “let’s go get ‘em tomorrow” or he goes on the disabled list for a couple weeks. But he doesn’t use injury as an excuse after a bad performance, which is probably why the Philadelphia faithful has cut him more slack than any professional athlete in the city’s history.
Like I said before, I’m sure Willis is hurting. But he ticked a lot of people off by telling the medical staff that he was ready, willing and able to pitch, only to then tell everyone after the game that he was still hurting after getting rocked by a bunch of ham-and-eggers.
It sounds like excuse-making.
If this all sounds a bit hard on the D-Train, it certainly is not meant to be. Dontrelle messed up a bit, and will learn from it. He’s fighting for a spot on this team and, so far at least, things have not gone well. But by all accounts he’s a good kid (I love calling professional athletes “kids” by the way), his heart is in the right place, and he’s a competitor.
My recommendation is for Willis to amble on up to Chase at some point this week for pointers on PR. Because after all, when you think of public relations, you think of Chase Utley.