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Pirates

Q&A with Dontrelle Willis

| Sunday, Aug. 10, 2003

Florida Marlins pitcher Dontrelle Willis has made national headlines since making the jump from Class AA to the major leagues in early May. The 21-year-old lefty won eight of his first 10 starts, earning a trip to the All-Star Game, and has since helped to put the Marlins in playoff contention for the first time since they won the World Series in 1997. Entering his next start Monday, Willis is 11-2 with a 2.56 ERA in 17 starts.

Q: Do you ever get tired of the pressure that comes with everybody wanting to talk to you?

A: It's not pressure. Everyone asks the same questions over and over, so it's tedious. But it's no pressure being out here. Regardless of the situation, I just go out and do my work on the field. I'm enjoying myself. It's tedious answering the same questions over and over, but I know it's a part of it. It's part of the game, like it or not. It's one of those things where you just take it one day at a time and try not to make it overwhelming.

Q: You've basically become a household name overnight. How have you handle the notoriety that's come with that?

A: I take it all with a grain of salt. I know that, if my numbers were different, people wouldn't think as highly of me as they do. I'm trying to keep a level head because, in this game, you never know when your time might be up. I take every day as a blessing.

Q: When you were pitching for Carolina in Class AA earlier this season, did you think that you would be in the major leagues in a couple of months?

A: I never really looked at it that way. Class A ball, double-A, I just took it one start at a time. I never wanted to get too caught up in things. I wanted to simplify things and just go out there and have fun. It's so easy to get caught up in everything and stay away from having fun. When it comes down to it, this is just a backyard game. You throw the ball, catch the ball, and hit the ball. That thinking has been a key to my success this year.

Q: Looking back now, are you surprised by what's happened to you this season?

A: Very much so. Going into this season, I never thought I would be in a situation like this. It's one of those things where you just think God and hope it continues.

Q: What has worked right for you this season• What are the things that you are doing very well?

A: I'm just throwing strikes. I have a great defense behind me, and a lot of luck.

Q: Your team is in contention for a playoff spot. How do you think the next two months will play out•

A: I hope we just keep competing day in and day out. When you're always in the game all the way until the ninth inning, you never know what's going to happen. Lately, we've been competing like that, and that's translated into some success. Hopefully, it'll continue. We'll see.

Q: Has the managerial change from Jeff Torborg to Jack McKeon helped you team at all?

A: I was only here for a day when that happened, so I really couldn't tell you.

Q: Which players on this team are going to help the Marlins get to the playoffs?

A: Everybody. That's easy. Everyone's doing their part. Everybody is contributing, and that's what a playoff-caliber team does.

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