Dontrelle Willis slated to pitch home opener for Long Island Ducks, team hopes for return of star Vladimir Guerrero
"Key members of the Ducks organization gathered at media day/fanfest Saturday at Bethpage Ballpark. But there was one noteworthy absence: Vladimir Guerrero.
|Ducks pitcher Dontrelle Willis|
"He's got some family issues, some things going on that he needs to take care of," Ducks manager Kevin Baez said. "But he's still on the radar and we're just waiting to hear."
Guerrero, the 2004 American League MVP and nine-time All-Star, signed with the Ducks on April 4, becoming the most decorated player in the 13-year history of the franchise. He was placed on the inactive list Saturday, allowing the Ducks to replace him on the roster until he is prepared to join the team, the team said.
"He's asked for a little bit more time, we granted that," founder Frank Boulton said. "Buddy's not getting on a plane and going down to carry him back," he joked.
"I might," bench coach Bud Harrelson fired back.
Harrelson's response reflects the high anticipation surrounding the arrival of a potential Hall of Famer as he launches a comeback on Long Island. Though Guerrero's Central Islip debut may have been postponed indefinitely, other familiar names were in uniform as the Ducks prepare to defend their Atlantic League championship.
Including Dontrelle Willis, a 31-year-old lefthanded pitcher, who in 2003 was an All-Star, won National League Rookie of the Year and helped the Marlins defeat the Yankees in the World Series.
"I've always loved playing at Shea and coming to New York," said Willis, who last played in the majors with Cincinnati in 2011 before spending two seasons in Triple A. "It was kind of a no-brainer for me to come here with the talent level."
Willis was joined by his former Marlins teammate, Ramon Castro, who was a catcher for the Mets between 2005 and 2009.
"I heard this is the easiest way to go back to the big leagues," said Castro, who was behind the plate for Mark Buehrle's perfect game with the White Sox in 2009. "I want to keep playing until nobody wants me no more."
Willis is slated to pitch the home opener against the Skeeters on April 26, after the Ducks hold a pregame ring ceremony and raise their championship banner."...photo by George A. Faella, Dontrelle Willis warms up in the bullpen, 4/13/13
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