- Jesse Rogers, ESPN Staff Writer
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Forget about trying to get back to the major leagues, Willis, 31, just wants to pitch in any type of game.
"I'm just backing up the guys in case an inning gets out of hand or something like that," Willis said Monday morning before the Cubs took on the Los Angeles Dodgers in Cactus League play.
Willis is one of three pitchers in camp who are assigned mop-up duty only. Every day the Cubs have a plan of who and how long each pitcher will throw in a game. Willis isn't on that list. He throws only if an inning gets way out of hand so the Cubs rotation of pitchers doesn't get messed up.
"I don't have any goals far as getting back to the big leagues," Willis said. "Everyone wants to be in the big leagues. I'd be mad if someone didn't."
That might not sound confident, but Willis knows his situation. He's never come close to the 22 wins he achieved in 2005 for the Marlins. Since being traded to the Detroit Tigers in 2008 he's bounced around several organizations including Arizona, San Francisco, Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Baltimore.
Pitching at Triple-A for the Orioles last season, Willis was 0-3 with an 8.53 ERA before announcing he was quitting the game. But he signed a minor league deal with the Cubs in January. After making $40 million in his career, he's back where he started with the Cubs, who originally drafted Willis in the eighth round of the 2000 draft before trading him to the Marlins.
"I'm really not that complex of a guy," Willis said. "I just take it one day at a time. I just enjoy being here. Whatever the case arises, be ready for the call. ... Everyone can hope to be wherever they want to be, but you have to be honest with your situation. There are other people they have to give looks and stuff like that. And there are only nine innings in a ball game."
The Cubs seem to be on the same page with Willis. Asked if there is a plan for Willis, manager Dale Sveum said:
"We don't have any plans. He's in minor league camp, and he's coming over here to be a back-up pitcher. He's a minor league player."
He won't be able to prove otherwise until he gets to the minors and starts getting people out.
"I've gotten people out at the highest level, and I haven't gotten people out at the lowest level," Willis said. "That's just one of those things where you have to be confident and go out there and execute your pitches and let the chips fall where they may.
"You can be hopeful about the situation but at the same time you have to be smart and understand the situation and be ready."