GLENDALE, Ariz. - It took Dontrelle Willis more than 10 years to get back on a mound for the Cubs' organization - and just seven pitches to head back off with an injury.
The former All-Star of Florida Marlins "D-Train" fame suffered shoulder tightness during the eighth inning of Monday's spring training game against the Los Angeles Dodgers and left the mound with the trainer.
``It's a minor setback. I don't think it's going to be anything serous,'' said the visibly dejected left-hander. ``But it's just frustrating because I finally get a chance, and I hit the ground running, and an injury happens. It's frustrating. But if guys can overcome ACL tears, I'll be able to overcome this and come back.''
Willis, a Rookie of the Year in 2003 a year after the Cubs traded him as a minor-leaguer to the Marlins, re-signed with the Cubs as a minor-league free agent assigned to minor-league camp as he makes another comeback after a long, mysterious decline since his 22-win All-Star season in 2005.
He had been invited to join the team as an extra bullpen pitcher each of the first three Cactus League, and made his first appearance Monday after starter Carlos Villanueva's five-batter start (pitch limit) created a domino effect that used up most of the pitchers.
Willis, 31, said he felt the shoulder tighten on the second pitch to Nick Evans. He then threw five straight balls and left.
Willis represented a no-risk flyer when they signed him and is not considered a part of any of their pitching plans, short of a sudden rebirth of power and command.
Manager Dale Sveum didn't even seem to know much about him before the game, declining to comment on his ability or comeback chances.
``He's in minor league camp,'' Sveum said. ``That's all there is to it.''
Said Willis: ``I'm just frustrated today because I really wanted to play and get in there and mix it up,'' said. ``It's early so hopefully I get enough time to get back.''