September 23, 2005


Willis gains stature as hitter -- batting 7th (Juan C. Rodriguez, September 23, 2005, Orlando Sun-Sentinel)

Nine years before Dontrelle Willis was born, Expos starter Steve Renko batted seventh in an Aug. 26, 1973 game against the San Diego Padres.

A pitcher hadn't hit higher than eighth since then -- until Thursday.

Manager Jack McKeon slotted Dontrelle Willis in the seven hole against Pedro Martinez and the Mets. Last Saturday, Willis became the second pitcher since 1998 to hit eighth.

"The guy's a pretty good hitter," McKeon said. "You throw a left-handed hitter in the middle of that lineup. One good thing is he puts the ball in play all the time."

Willis, who in his first at-bat worked the count full before David Wright reached into the camera well to catch a foul pop, entered the game batting .250 (21 for 84). He already had the season franchise marks for runs (14), hits and RBI (11) by a pitcher. He added a single in the fourth and finished the night 1 for 4.

Mr. McKeon has also moved superstar outfielder Miguel Cabrera back to 3b, where he played in the minors, and played regular 3b, Mike Lowell, at second. It's nice to be old enough you don't have to worry about second-guessers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 23, 2005 3:40 PM

An American League team should pick him up for those interleague away games. I haven't checked, but wouldn't be surprised if some teams' entire staff went 0-fer. (I think the Mariners came close, but with their hitting, that just means they fit right in.) But why not use the guy as a pinch hitter on his off days, too?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at September 23, 2005 4:58 PM

Fernando Valenzuela, though I don't remember him batting other than ninth, hit over .200 frequently, and had one .300 season.

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at September 23, 2005 4:58 PM

Tom Glavine, when playing for the Braves, also had a high batting average.

Posted by: Bruce Cleaver at September 23, 2005 6:42 PM

Way back when, Gary Peters used to pinch hit for the White Sox.

Posted by: jdkelly at September 23, 2005 7:02 PM

I believe Ken Brett hit over .300 a few times! He pinch hit a few times while in Pittsburgh.

Posted by: jim hamlen at September 23, 2005 10:42 PM

Slightly off topic, but I watched the TV show about Latin ballplayers tonight. Wow. What a difference before weight-lifting and steroids. They had arms like when I played ball (though, with better timing, they hit it further and with more frequency).

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at September 24, 2005 1:28 AM

Clemens is hitting .220 or so.

Posted by: joe shropshire at September 24, 2005 1:34 AM