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LHP Willis Announces Retirement Through Orioles

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LAKELAND, FL - FEBRUARY 27: Dontrelle Willis #21 of the Detroit Tigers poses during photo day at the Detroit Tigers Spring Training facility on February 27, 2010 in Lakeland, Florida. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

LAKELAND, FL – FEBRUARY 27: Dontrelle Willis #21 of the Detroit Tigers poses during photo day at the Detroit Tigers Spring Training facility on February 27, 2010 in Lakeland, Florida. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

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SEATTLE (AP) — Left-hander Dontrelle Willis is retiring following a rocky stretch with Baltimore’s top farm club.

Willis was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2003 with the Marlins and quickly became one of baseball’s most popular players. But the big left-hander has struggled since he won 22 games seven years ago and was second in the NL Cy Young Award voting.

“(It’s) kind of sad in a way because of how good he was. I look at it from the game of baseball,” manager Buck Showalter said before Baltimore faced Seattle on Monday night. “We’ll see what the future holds for him. I appreciate him giving it a shot with us.”

Willis won just 26 games and had 5.02 ERA over his final six seasons in the majors pitching for Florida, Detroit, Arizona and Cincinnati. His final appearance in the majors came on Sept. 25, 2011, when he beat Pittsburgh 5-4 for his only victory of the 2011 season with the Reds.

Willis was cut by Philadelphia during spring training and later agreed to a minor league deal with the Orioles. He made just four appearances for Triple-A Norfolk, going 0-3 with an 8.53 ERA.

The 30-year-old Willis had a 72-69 career record with a 4.17 ERA. He was also one of baseball’s best hitting pitchers during his time in the majors, batting .244 with nine homers and 39 RBIs

Baltimore also announced a roster move before the series opener in Seattle, recalling right-hander Steve Johnson from Norfolk.

Johnson was 3-5 with a 2.73 ERA in 14 games, nine starts, for the Tides. His father, Dave, pitched for the Orioles from 1989-91.

Johnson may be used as both a starter and reliever with Baltimore’s rotation in flux. Right-hander Chris Tillman was scratched from his start with Norfolk on Monday and will be flying to Seattle on Tuesday to join the Orioles. Showalter was not sure if Tillman would start Wednesday’s series finale in Seattle or Thursday against the Angels.

Showalter also said slugger Nick Markakis is moving closer to returning from a fractured hamate bone in his right hand. Markakis did some light hitting on Monday and could start a minor league rehab stint with Double-A Bowie this week.

“I’m just hoping at this point we’re able to see him after the All-Star break,” Showalter said.

Johnson takes the roster spot of Brian Matusz, who was sent down after he took the loss Sunday against the Cleveland Indians.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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