Executive vice president Dan Duquette has no plans to release Willis. Willis has no plans to report to Triple-A Norfolk, the team he left on Friday before learning that the Orioles placed him on the restricted list.
The Orioles claim that Willis didn’t have permission to leave. Willis and his agent, Matt Sosnick, say that’s not the case, and that the left-hander believed he had been granted his release so he could attempt to sign with another team as a starter.
“Honestly, I really don’t know what’s going on,” Willis said when reached by phone. “I don’t have any feel for what’s going on, to be totally honest. I talked to Dan personally, as far as the position I’m in, pitching in relief and giving it a shot and thought we were both clear on that. I talked to my representative and talked to one of the reps from Baltimore, as far as granting my release, and then all of a sudden I’m hearing I’m on the restricted list.
“From anybody on the outside looking in, it raises eyebrows, like there’s something wrong at home, wrong with me. It’s not that way. I thought it was a mutual parting of ways. It’s one of those things where, if he had told me he was putting me on the restricted list, I wouldn’t have left. I didn’t grab my book bag and run out of the class. I’m almost dumbfounded. I’m not even upset. I don’t know if it’s personal because I don’t know Dan.
“I don’t understand. I’m a guy that, and you can ask anyone who’s dealt with me, I don’t want any problems with anybody. I just want to play baseball and do that and go home. I don’t understand what’s really going on. I don’t know if there’s been a miscommunication there. Not with me. I talked to my agent and we talked about it, I talked to the proper representation, I talked to Dan personally. It wasn’t by text or phone where there could be a misunderstanding. There were others in the room. It was face-to-face. I don’t know what’s going on. And now if I want to sign with another team, I can’t.”
Rumors are circulating that Willis has an offer from a team in Japan and another one in Korea, but Sosnick said there are no offers from “foreign or domestic teams.”
“I want to play,” Willis said. “I don’t understand. I’m not angry, I’m not trying to blast anybody. I just don’t know what’s going on, because we talked in Gwinnett about what they wanted me to do and I was hurt again and we discussed it. I thought everything was clear. I never would have left. All of a sudden, I’m getting calls and people are asking if my family is OK, and I’m like, ‘What’s going on?’ Then I hear they say I left without permission. I’m not a kid and I’d never do that. It doesn’t help me or the Orioles or all parties. And I wouldn’t want to take a roster spot of somebody else who could be using it. I wouldn’t do that. I’m not that guy. I’m blessed to have made my money and win a world title. I want everybody to experience that. Why would I stop someone else from moving up? That’s not me.”
Willis agreed to make the conversion to lefty specialist when he signed with the Orioles, “but I was getting hurt doing it,” he said. “I didn’t have a good feel for it. Hey, everybody can’t be a reliever and everybody can’t be a starter. That’s why you have second basemen and shortstops and outfielders. It wasn’t a good fit for me. I talked to the manager (Ron Johnson) and pitching coach (Mike Griffin). I had a dialogue with people. It’s not like I threw a fit and left. The guys down there will tell you.
“Once again, I have nothing to hide. I was getting hurt and not doing myself any good. I busted my butt last year to get back. I know I’m capable of doing it. I don’t have anything to lie about. I’m more embarrassed than anything.
“I just hope they grant me my release. And I wish the Orioles the best. I’ve got friends with the Orioles. It’s nothing personal with the organization. They’re great guys and they’re doing well. I root for those guys. But hey, it’s a business. And I stand by my word.
“I talk with class and dignity, because we might cross paths again. I’m not about to burn any bridges. It’s a small fraternity. GMs and players move all the time. I don’t want any animosity. But I also don’t want to take away from someone who can do the job better than I can. This is exactly what I told Dan. If you have people who are better, especially the young guys, because I got my chance that way, I don’t want to take away from the next guy.”
The Orioles maintain the stance that Willis left the club without permission and nobody granted his release. They say Willis was concerned about his limited innings and they came up with a plan in Gwinnett to get him the work necessary to sharpen his command.
If Willis wants to pitch, the Orioles say it will happen with Norfolk. No where else.