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Phillies release Willis

The Phillies have released left-handed pitcher Dontrelle Willis, the team announced today.

The Phillies have released left-handed pitcher Dontrelle Willis. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
The Phillies have released left-handed pitcher Dontrelle Willis. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)Read more

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies have released Dontrelle Willis, the enigmatic lefthander who was attempting to revive his career as a reliever.

He was plagued by ineffectiveness and arm soreness during the first four weeks of camp. That, despite only three Grapefruit League appearances, was enough for the Phillies to pull the plug on the experiment.

"We just didn't feel like, from what we had seen, he was going to help us," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said prior to the Phillies' game against the Pirates in Bradenton on Friday.

Amaro said the team would continue to look at the other left-handed relievers in camp, including minor leaguers Joe Savery and Jake Diekman and veteran Raul Valdes.

Willis, 30, was signed this winter to a one-year, $850,000 nonguaranteed contract. He received approximately $139,000 as termination pay (30 days' salary). If he was still on the roster Saturday, he was guaranteed another 15 days' pay (approximately $69,000).

Willis allowed five runs in 2 2/3 innings this spring. He pitched a scoreless inning Thursday but only after walking the first batter he faced on five pitches. Willis had been a starter his entire career before this spring and the transition to the bullpen was not smooth.

He did not record a strikeout while walking four, continuing the trend of control issues that derailed a once-promising career.

The Phillies announced his release at 10:13 a.m. and Willis left the complex minutes later. A half hour later, all that remained in his corner locker were three bats and some Phillies clothing. A large cardboard box sat in front of it.

Willis expressed optimism following Thursday's outing, but it was too little too late.

When he induced an inning-ending double play, he pounded his left fist into his glove and said a quick prayer while skipping off the field. Ultimately, it was his last act as a Phillie.

"I take it just like a game situation because honestly it is," Willis said then. "That's the type of situation I'll get put in at [Citizens Bank Park] and Atlanta and those places, and I'm facing guys I might face in the big leagues."

That dream ended Friday morning.

Daily News staff writer David Murphy contributed to this article.

Contact Matt Gelb at or @magelb on Twitter.