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Agents: Ease up on Willis

TOM JONES
Published August 31, 2003

Florida sensation Dontrelle Willis can't take a step these days without tripping over a microphone or bumping into a tape recorder. Everyone, it seems, wants a moment or two of his time: newspapers, TV reporters, charities, companies looking for a pitch man.

Enough, say his agents.

"He's physically exhausted," said Matt Sosnick, who represents Willis with Paul Cobbe, in an interview with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "Dontrelle does nothing else except give interviews and pitch and sleep. ... It's really not fair. He has no personal time at all. He's shot. He doesn't sleep well at night. He's totally tired."

It's showing. After going 9-1 with a 2.08 ERA in the first half, Willis has crashed. In his first seven starts after the break, he went 2-3 with a 6.25 ERA.

So his agents are asking the Marlins to protect Willis, to keep him away from extended television interviews and in-depth stories that require more than a couple minutes. They also have asked the Marlins to excuse Willis from the weekly schedule of player appearances.

Willis doesn't mind the media attention, nor has his success turned him into an arrogant jerk. Bottom line: His focus is on pitching a baseball instead of pitching himself.

"Please don't take this the wrong way," Sosnick said. "It's not like we're saying, "Poor Dontrelle, he has got to deal with this.' It's a million times better than the opposite way, but at the end of the day Dontrelle Willis needs to pitch well and win games."

AN ASSIST: After a Reds game two weeks ago, a woman driving on the Reed Hartman Highway in suburban Cincinnati hit an orange barrel and flipped her car several times. A stranger pulled her out of the wreck, helped her to his car and dialed 911. She complained of thirst and the man gave her his Gatorade. He stayed with her until police arrived.

When she asked his name, he said, "Sean," and went on his way. It was Reds slugger Sean Casey. The woman didn't know until told by police who recognized him.

Casey didn't even tell teammates. Asked by catcher Jason LaRue if he was caught in the big traffic jam the night before, Casey said no. The story got out only because the woman e-mailed the Reds to thank Casey.

HOLD THE BURGERS: The Brewers came within two games of feeding Milwaukee. George Webb restaurants, a chain of 24-hour greasy spoons, has a deal to give away free burgers if the Brewers win 12 straight. It goes all the way back to the 1940s when the Brewers were in the American Association. Milwaukee's 10-game streak was snapped Friday.

In all the years, George Webb had to pay off their deal once: in 1987, when the Brewers won 13 straight to start the season. It gave away 170,000 burgers.

HOT SEAT: Baltimore manager Mike Hargrove is in the final year of his contract and rumors are swirling it will be his final year with the Orioles.

"We don't have any comment on that at this point," team executive Jim Beattie said. "We want to address this when we address it. That's all we're going to say about it at this point."

Not exactly a vote of confidence.

HE KEEPS GOING AND GOING AND ... : Reliever Jesse Orosco is out of work and turns 47 next April, but he's not ready for the rocking chair. He wants to pitch next season.

"I'm not begging to play baseball," Orosco said. "If it's over it's over, but there's still time to see if a contending team can use me."

MINOR GEMS: The A's don't want to lose shortstop Miguel Tejada to free agency, but the cupboard won't be bare if he does leave. Shortstop prospect Bobby Crosby of Triple-A Sacramento was named the Pacific Coast League rookie of the year after hitting .303 with 20 homers, 84 RBIs and 22 steals.

Meantime, Prince Fielder, son of former big-leaguer Cecil Fielder and Milwaukee's first-round pick in 2002, was named MVP of the Class A Midwest League after batting .313 with 27 homers and 109 RBIs.

CURSE OF NELLY?: Heading into the weekend, the Mariners had one 9-15 and fallen out of first place in the American League West since trading reliever Jeff Nelson to the Yankees.

"I'm still watching them, and I think they will be all right," Nelson said. "All teams go through this ... and the Mariners are better than this. But I have to say, I still don't understand: Why my trade?"

HALF OF A DEAL: When Brian Giles went from Pittsburgh to San Diego, catcher Jason Kendall was supposed to go with him. But that part of the deal evaporated when the Pirates refused to pick up part of Kendall's contract, a deal that will pay him $42-million from 2004 to 2007.

The Padres are in the market for a catcher and might chase soon-to-be free agents Javy Lopez, Brad Ausmus, Ivan Rodriguez or Jason Varitek. And don't be surprised if they make another run at trading for Kendall.

"Our talks aren't dead there, just dormant," San Diego GM Kevin Towers said. "We definitely have a need for a catcher, and he is a catcher. We just want to see what options may be out there this winter before committing to him this early. By no means is this dead."

WILD RACE: The Phillies recently went through a 3-7 stretch at the same time the Marlins were going through a 2-8 slump. During that time, the Dodgers picked up a mere half-game in the wild-card race.

"No one is playing like they want it," Dodgers centerfielder Dave Roberts said. "And I think the baseball gods are looking out for us, but we have to find some way to turn things around. ... We have to try to be positive and realize we're fortunate to be where we're at, and we have to do something about it."

SHORT HOPS: Because of his hefty contract and the fact he no longer is the ace of the staff, Kerry Wood of the Cubs might be on the trading block this winter. ... The Braves went over 2-million in attendance last week for the 13th consecutive season. Only Los Angeles (31 years) and Baltimore (15) have longer streaks. ... The A's expect Jermaine Dye, who has been out with a dislocated shoulder, to return to the lineup this week. ... The Brewers are talking about extending the contracts of Richie Sexson and Geoff Jenkins but might consider trading one or both if extensions can't be reached over the winter. ... The Dodgers have dumped Andy Ashby into the bullpen and that means Wilson Alvarez (remember him?) is a full-time starter again.

- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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